Stuff that’s been kicking around in my head for the last few days…
(Forgive me if most of this column makes little or no sense. I’m writing this from a hotel room in Seattle on Sunday night after completing the North Olympic Discovery Marathon some seven hours earlier. To term what happened during my last 13 miles an epic collapse would be gentle. Until today, the worst marathon memories my lifetime were Uta Pippig in 1996 and Rob Bradford in 2002 (we ran Boston together that year. Rob, to put it mildly, struggled at Heartbreak Hill. Tough to describe the sounds that were coming out of his body, but I always thought that if Marge Schott were in the throes of passion she would sound exactly like Rob did at mile 19). But now I stand next to them. Not stand, actually, as I crawled up the stairs to eat dinner about an hour ago. So again, I’m not really accountable for what you are about to read.)
- As a Billerica boy (sort of, I lived there until I was 11. But I still frequent Stromboli’s (great pizza) and would still even go see movies at the Billerica Mall theatre if it were still kicking (out of blind loyalty—the place was a dump but I saw so many of the formative flicks of my childhood there. ET, both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Superman II, Tootsie) I’m slightly miffed at the treatment Tom Glavine received last week from the Braves. Do I think Glavine was going to pitch well this season? Of course not. He’s 43 years old, had a 5.54 ERA last season and is coming off of a major injury. But that really is in no way the point. To gas a guy that defined the franchise for the last 20 years over a $1 million bonus is an awful move that is terribly short-minded. Why risk the relationship with Glavine? I guess Frank Wren knows better than me. Must be future 300-game winners growing on trees in Atlanta. Can’t be another reason, right? Let me think about that over the next six months while the Bengals bring Chris Henry back four more times (here’s a fast rule I’d always follow if I were a GM: if a player’s “off the field problems” section of his Wikipedia entry runs over, say, 400 words I’m passing. Henry’s? 782).
But the Braves are interested in Brad Penny and his 5.85 ERA? Why not just keep Glavine? I’m pretty sure he can give you a 1.60 WHIP and a .309 batting average against. And he’ll do it for half the price and won’t cost you a prospect. I still don’t understand how there can be a market for Penny. What am I missing?
- I am not interested in hearing about a challenge to Joe D’s record until the streak hits 36 games. Ichiro wasn’t even HALFWAY there and ESPN was starting with the “race to history” stuff. Get within 20 and I’m even OK with cut-ins to each at-bat. It is amazing that no one has sniffed 56 games before or after DiMaggio (and remember DiMaggio started a 17-game streak after the 56-gamer was snapped. Imagine if he were at 74 games?). What do we see first—a .400 hitter or 57 straight?
- Saw Terminator Salivation. Giving McG the keys to that franchise is roughly the equivalent of firing Bill Belichick tomorrow and naming Mike Shula the head coach of the Patriots.
- Is it possible that Derek Jeter has made the complete 180 from overrated to underrated? I think until The Collapse the general public actually believed that Jeter could alter the course of a playoff game with a look or a fist pump. But there has been a change in the climate, and now it is fashionable to dismiss Jeter as a nice player who would have never resonated had he played his entire career in Kansas City or San Diego. And while I agree that Royals shortstop Derek Jeter would have not been a favorite of Madison Avenue I suspect he’d still be heading to the Hall of Fame. How would you vote if I gave you this résumé (without knowing the player)? (Just for kicks I’ll match him up with Cal Ripken, who got into the Hall with the highest percentage for any everyday player in history.)
Jeter: Six 200-hit seasons (most all-time at SS). Ripken: Two
Jeter: 11 100-run seasons (most all-time at SS). Ripken: Three
Jeter: 10 seasons hitting at least .300. Ripken: Four
Jeter: Eight seasons with an OBP of at least .380. Ripken: Zero
Jeter: Seven seasons with at least 20 steals. Ripken: Zero
And by the way Jeter has played 14 full seasons, seven fewer than Ripken. And he’s on pace to got over .300 with 200 hits and 100 runs again in 2009. Jeter will finish his career with around 3,300 hits. And it looks like a coin flip to get to 2,000 runs (he’s at 1,500 right now). Here’s the 3,000/2,000 club:
Look, I get that he’s not whatever it is that Buck and McCarver have been telling us for the last decade (although I get the feeling that Buck has read enough to slow down a little over the past few years. Not Timmy, though. Not to get too BSG but Jeter is Brandon Walsh to McCarver’s Emily Valentine. Does that mean that the new Yankee Stadium gets torched before Game 3 of the World Series? Maybe Jeter is Rockwell and McCarver is that somebody always watching him. Does that feel more accurate?) but the truth is that Derek Jeter would be an easy Hall of Famer if he had never played in a single playoff game.
- Good luck at NBC, Rodney. Not sure how Football Night in America is going to help you get closer to realizing that dream of becoming a referee, but it should be fun to watch you match wits with that vibrant personality, Tony Dungy (who I have been told is a class act. No, seriously). And feel free to lead with your helmet if Keith Olbermann is working that last nerve.
I still can’t shake the feeling that without Red Auerbach we would still know Bill Russell, but without Bill Russell Red Auerbach would have just been some guy that coached the Celtics for a while in the 1950s. And that, of course, would have been a shame because Red Auerbach is the single greatest executive in American sports history (built three different multi-title teams—name me another GM that has pulled that off).
I’m OK with those that think Phil Jackson, if he wins this 10th title, is the best coach in NBA history. It is a Red/Phil debate only, and it is close to be sure. The knock on Jackson is that he has always had the best player in the league, but Russell, Havlicek, Cousy and Sam Jones isn’t exactly the 1998 Celtics. Too close to call maybe, but here is why my vote goes to Jackson. Shaq, Kobe, Pippen and Jordan played a combined total of 31 seasons without Jackson and won exactly one NBA title. Bill Russell played a total of three seasons without Red Auerbach and won two NBA titles. You think Phil Jackson wins nine titles with Bill Russell and those Celtics? So do I. Do you think Red Auerbach coaches this Lakers team to a title? I’m not so sure, but that Gasol trade was a vintage Red swipe.
(And don’t forget, the Bulls might’ve won a title without Jordan in 1994 if not for Hugh Hollins. Red never got a chance to show what he would have done with those 1960s Celtics if Russell had missed a season.)
- If Tiger Woods drives the ball as well at the U.S. Open as he did on Sunday at The Memorial get ready for a “Woods in 2000” type of rout, which in some ways are as fun as the thrillers. OK, you won’t get Rocco and 91 holes but you will get Sergio Garcia screaming at USGA officials and Jim Furyk and Ben Crane playing 18 holes in seven hours. Not exactly fodder for John Feinstein.
(So Tiger has 67 wins and 14 majors. Any guesses where he winds up? Let’s think here: He’s 33 years old. Figure he goes full-tilt for another 12 years or so? I think four wins and a major per year is fair enough. 115 wins and 26 majors. That is about the equal of 1,200 career homers or 600 wins. And I don’t want to knock the guy but to compare Roger Federer to Tiger is almost like comparing Don Swayze to his older brother. First, Federer may not be the best tennis player in the world today (does he win Sunday if Nadal is on the other side of the net?). And while he’ll likely finish a major or two ahead of Sampras, Tiger is simply going to obliterate Nicklaus’ mark. Let’s be honest, if there were a golfing equal of Nadal he would have been mentally beaten down by Tiger after a few years. The PGA Tour is now full of guys that have become Allison Janney in “American Beauty”, just sort of walking in a daze, nothing left. I think 99 percent of the players on tour would be thrilled to finish, say, sixth at the US Open, take the 220K and go home.)
- Why do I keep reading that Randy Johnson is going to be the last 300-game winner? Tim Kurkjian thinks the next 300-game winner probably hasn’t been born yet, thinks the era of five-man rotations severely limits a pitcher’s chances. Well, I don’t know. Tom Glavine made 34 starts in 1988. Guess how many starts he made in 2008? 34. Greg Maddux made at least 33 starts in 19 seasons. And this is all pitching in a five-man rotation. And it’s not like we are talking about Three Finger Brown here, pitching both games of a double-header before going off to the graveyard shift at the beanery. Maddux had just 10 complete games in his final eight seasons, but he still tacked on 115 wins in that span. Glavine had seven CG’s in his final seven seasons (98 wins). And don’t be so quick to give up on a guy if he isn’t on pace for 300 wins early in his career. Randy Johnson had just 94 wins at age 30. So while it is unlikely that Roy Halladay (141 wins, 32 years old) gets to 300 it’s not impossible. If he finishes this season with 150 he’d have to average 15 over the next 10 years. I think he’s got a 20, 25 percent shot. If C.C. Sabathia doesn’t reach another 300 mark first he’s got a decent chance. He’ll be somewhere around 145 wins at age 30. If (HUGE if) he stays in shape he could be around 250 by age 37. After that, who knows? But it’ll happen again. Someone pretty good (an annual 32-34 game starter, 15-17 wins) will stay healthy and want to pitch into his 40s. Pretty simple formula.