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Baseball, football, Eckersley, and more on the sports front

Wednesday 10/5/22

Albert Pujols passed Babe Ruth the other night for second on the all-time RBI list. The most impressive statistical achievement of 2022. More impressive than Judge with his home run numbers and Pujols reaching 700. I didn't expect to see this. It's Ruth. As an achievement, this is more significant than those home run numbers. People always talk about Pujols like he was good earlier on and then became this lesser player. Not true. He declined, of course. But he remained a force on the Angels, and elite player, and then when he wasn't one of the best in the game, he was still a 100 RBI guy. I know the vogue right now is to say that's meaningless, but not to me. Even if you're OPS is .720, if you are driving in 100 runs, that is value. I believe in the old school numbers as well. That production means something. He's been fantastic this year in his role. Passing Ruth is wild. Again, it's Ruth.


Judge hit his sixty-second. This Red Sox and Roger Maris fan was rooting for him to do it.


The Tony La Russa situation went as I had written it would in these pages.


New England fans are whistling themselves quite a tune as they walk past the graveyard. Everyone thinks Sunday's loss was encouraging. I see the opposite. This is a bad team. The Packers are not a good team right now, and they can't score. The offense they're running is mostly Rodgers throwing the ball up. There's no creativity. The receivers aren't good. They're not well-coached. Rodgers was not engaged on Sunday and he was terrible in the first half. Wanted to be somewhere else. Bailey Zappe? They asked him to do nothing. He's small. The Patriots do not have a capable quarterback on that roster. It's not Mac Jones. He's not going to be this long-time starter in the league. He's not good enough. The arm is too weak. Patricia has no business calling plays. Again, I can see this being Belichick's last year. I can also see Josh McDaniel coaching this team in the near future, but I can also envision Kraft reevaluating him after he fails in Oakland, which I think is likely. They're going to have to flush out the house and move on. More chatter about how it was Brady and not Belichick. When the Patriots were great, they were great because of the team and how that team played in various facets and because of how Brady played. It was both. When were the Patriots great? 2003 and 2004. All-timer teams. They won later, but they weren't great. Then it was more Brady. They won at their best, though, because they had rosters studded with Hall of Fame talent and so many guys who were way above average and played a certain way, with a certain discipline, and a coach who was on a different level. They were a relentless machine. It wasn't just Brady who made all of the big plays when it mattered most. There were also the game plans. Look at the 2001 Super Bowl. Look at the games against Manning. Look at the discipline those teams had. The poise. A coach instilled that. Players--like the leaders--helped it trickle down, but that started with Belichick. Now he's a guy who is just some guy who I don't think realizes the gravity of his situation. He's been passed by, and he cares more about cronyism and nepotism than anything. He's not who he was.


This is a down period for Boston teams. Patriots and Red Sox in last place, the Bruins pretty blah, with injuries to their two best players, and a new coach who was hired because the players said the last one was too mean. Soft. Soft. Soft. I think Cassidy is going to win at least one Cup elsewhere. He can have a Mike Sullivan-type of career. I'm expecting the Celtics to be decent, but a middle of the pack sort of good team, and highly unlikely to reach the Finals again. The Red Sox and the Tigers have the most last place finishes in baseball in the last eleven years with five each. Can also see the Sox being bad next year. That roster will be very new, all of these guys coming in. No frontline starters. Bloom will try and paste it together with other guys. He's not the right person for this market. They're going to need to move on from him before they're a top team again. I may look at these words later and realize how wrong I was about these assorted statements, but that's what I think at the moment.


Analytics people like to argue that Bobby Grich belongs in the Hall of Fame. (Speaking of "new" stats vs. old.) You know what? At no time when he was playing did Bobby Grich think of himself as a Hall of Famer, so this would be news to him. His final appearance was in Game 7 of the ALCS at Fenway, actually (which was the final postseason appearance of Reggie Jackson's career as well). Struck out twice in that game in two at-bats. Modern metrics people also think that Lou Whitaker was as good as Ryne Sandberg. They were not close. Sandberg was far superior. He was elite. He led the league in home runs as a second baseman. He won an MVP award and was the clear-cut selection that year, with one of the finest seasons a second baseman has ever had. He was a better fielder, better hitter, had more speed, and was one of the ten best players in the league for a while and the very best in 1984 by a healthy margin. Whitaker was never that. He was solid. Above average. Year in, year out. Whitaker had second baseman numbers, if you follow me. Sandberg had outfielder numbers at second base. No contest, despite the similar WAR totals. Whitaker's is higher. Whitaker was often the fifth-best player on those Tigers teams (behind Trammell, Gibson, Parrish, Morris).


I'm surprised--though I'm also not, because most people miss the significance of everything or anything--that more is not being made of the impact of the pitch clock in the minor leagues, which will be in the big leagues next year. Twenty-five minutes were shaved off of games on average. That adds up to a massive amount of time in a season. Instead of a three hour game each night it's two-and-a-half hours? That's huge. Sport-saving. If a baseball game can be the length of a hockey game? Wow. I think that's the biggest development in years.


Ohtani is going to get a lot of votes for MVP. My hunch is Judge wins it, but it's close-ish. Had Ohtani tossed a no-hitter the other night, though, like he almost did, that might have won him the award. That Angels are a joke of a team playing irrelevant games all season long. Judge is having the best season of this century. Well, perhaps. Depends how you feel about Bonds, but I don't know--there is no season, in terms of numbers, to rival his 2004 campaign, but I don't put a lot of stock in it. When I think of him, I think of him, at his ceiling, at that player in the early 1990s. Who was that? One of the best of his generation, but a top thirty or forty player all-time. I think that's who he was. Between Clemens and Bonds, I think the former is the larger talent, by a decent margin. Clemens was the best pitcher I've ever watched. I've seen guys as good as Bonds--this early 1990s Bonds of whom I speak.


Randall Cunningham is on that list of 150 plus players, or whatever it is--it's a big number--who have been selected by whatever committee for possible inclusion in the football Hall of Fame. The list is silly. Tedy Bruschi is one of the most clutch players in the league's history, but he's no Hall of Famer, and he's on this list. Cunningham deserves to be in. His stats are much better than I bet anyone thinks. Finished second three times, too, for MVP.


This is a quote from Wes Ferrell. It comes from Baseball: When the Grass Was Real, which I'm rereading. It's an oral history of players from the twenties through the forties. “I never threw at [Babe] Ruth, though. You just didn’t want to do that. He was baseball. What was it like pitching to him? Like looking into a lion’s jaw, that’s what.” His brother Rick is a favorite catcher of mine. Made the Hall of Fame, though most who are even aware of him will say he didn't deserve to. Has a beautiful Diamond Stars card.


Crazy baseball stat line: in 1980, Omar Moreno led the NL with 676 AB, 13 triples, and 96 steals. Somehow, he only scored 87 runs.


On Monday I watched the Red Sox come back on the Rays. Cold night, meaningless game for the Sox. Rays had positioning to play for, but they've been struggling, and I bet their attitude was to just kill off these last few games of the season and then reset and try to start anew in the postseason, whatever the match-up. Sometimes this is what baseball is: Your team, a bad team, long out of it, playing one of the last few games of another lost season, and there you are, pleased on a fall night that they came from behind and got a win. I don't know. That's really what it means to care about the sport and your team, in a way.


I saw on Twitter yesterday that Brady and his wife hired divorce attorneys. The reason I saw this was because a Roxane Gay tweet appeared on the screen. Not many have less talent than Roxane Gay. Not many are a worse person. Not many are bigger racists. (Jemele Hill is. I'd say that she actually has a comfortable lead over Roxane Gay in that category, to be fair.) Roxane Gay has been made wealthy because she has no talent, because of her gender, her skin color, her sexual orientation, her appearance, that she simultaneously pretended to be a victim with a backstory replete with obvious lies while coming from a background of massive privilege while being a bully. She tweeted that she found this "riveting" and she'll be following and gossiping about the divorce of these two people who are strangers to her. You find the demise of the marriage of strangers riveting? When one is this way, one is a bad person, filled with piles and piles and piles of nothingness. One is an empty human being. She said that she watches little football. Shocking. These people always hate sports because they are so unathletic (and lazy in all ways, including physically lazy). They also hate fair competition, because if anything was a level playing field, they'd be the last person to have any chance in hell of succeeding. She goes on to praise the woman and bash the man, which is typical, because, of course, Roxane Gay hates white men. (Again, though, less than Jemele Hill; Gay will use a white man if it gets her more money without having to possess any ability; she's more savvy than Hill, and smarter; Hill is more like the student in the class who is in that lowest percentile and can't keep up, and yet, gets an award from the school for their performance at the end of every month, as the other kids stand around and think, "What the hell?"; soon I'll break down some of Jemele Hill's writing on her, which will be something to behold and in which we'll be able to see how bad at the job her Atlantic editor is). She talks about the wife's earning power, as if she actually had a skill, and wasn't paid because--and this is ironic for Roxane Gay to praise--of her appearance. (If Bundchen wasn't Brazilian, Gay wouldn't have the same interest in praising her.) People say, "She's more successful than he is." Is she? She looks, or looked, a certain way. Would I be proud to be paid for my appearance? Or would I prefer to be paid for my abilities and what I actually add to the world? Abilities I had worked hard to develop? Roxane Gay would also not understand that. Or, rather, she'd understand that, and hate anyone or anything that was legitimate or legitimately earned. She'd try and reframe a narrative, with the plight of Black people, women, and herself at the center, and she'd make up every word of it. And because people view her as an object rather than a person--which is what she wants, or else there's no success, if this is success--they'll enable everything else here.


Hank Aaron was better than Willie Mays. No one thinks this. Mays was flashier. But look at it this way: from 1954 to 1966, Willie Mays had great years. But Hank Aaron had a great year every year from 1955 to 1973. He hit 40 home runs in 1973. Better career, better player. He gave you so many more amazing years. Yes, Mays has the higher WAR. So? Aaron was nearly twenty years of awesome production. Mays was a dozen years of awesome production. My best ballplayers of all-time (position players only): Ruth, Cobb, Williams, Aaron. The rest of my top ten moves around, but I am rather certain re: the first four.


Alex Speier was in the booth Monday and he said some touching things about Dennis Eckersley, who is doing his final games. I will miss Eckersley, who is also a person I admire. Early in his career, his wife left him for a teammate. He struggled with alcoholism and it was something that he dealt with for a long time. It was one reason why he wasn't on the road that much as a broadcaster. But he handled it. He gave up one of the most famous, improbably home runs in the sport's history. Best analyst the Red Sox ever had, too. Speier has all of these abstruse stats, so Eckersley dubbed him Stats Masterson. I wonder how many people got the reference to the Bat Masterson, the 1950s TV program. Then again, the people watching these games are largely seventy and up, so most likely quite a few.