(I preface this by saying I've seriously had editors use the term "football ball" to me, and not ironically. So let's make this a reoccurring blog feature, this being the first Sports Ball Thoughts entry. What to know something else fun? The hockey editor at ESPN The Magazine once asked me why was it that hockey centers turned over their bottom hands on face-offs. Her kid played hockey, and she didn't understand. You are the hockey editor at ESPN The Magazine, and you don't know this? That kind of thing used to surprise me.)
* The Red Sox lost to the Orioles last night. It's sad to see what the Orioles have become. They are now a team where I see a game like that and think, "you can't not be sweeping the Orioles." Even though it's unrealistic to expect multiple sweeps against any team. Their history puts them in what I think of as the second tier of baseball teams. In the first tier, you have the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants. Second tier: Orioles, Cubs, Pirates (again, I'm talking history, which I think keeps the Pirates here, though they've been a little light, you might say, for a while now), Tigers. The Yankees acquired Zach Britton during the game. Just prior, he ran in from the bullpen, and then sat on the bench after the trade--a physical pending, I guess--as it rained and there was a delay before play resumed. A strange moment. The interlude moment. You're no longer on the team. The moment you are not on a team any longer--and this goes back to youth sports--everything changes. You are an instant outsider. Just like that.
* A fun game: what's the earliest a player could have retired and be a Hall of Famer? For instance: would Mike Trout be a Hall of Famer right now if he retired after this season? I say no, unless he wins the MVP. If one of this second place finishes had been an MVP instead, and he had the three, I think that does it. The fewest amount of years someone could have played and been a Hall of Famer? Wayne Gretzky, three years. You'd have three MVPs, and the only 200 point season in NHL history, and the highest season totals for both goals and assists. What's more, first ballot HOF'er.
* I am tired of Tom Brady. I think he's passive aggressive, entitled, and he goes against my personal values in some areas. (Though in others, I respect him a lot.) People who are first and foremost about their brand--or become that way--are not people I can respect as people. I don't believe he is the primary reason for the Patriots' success. I think that is far and away Belichick. I think it's twice more Belichick than Brady, and I say that as someone who views Brady as the best football player ever. The "everything needs to be positive" Brady's shtick irks me. His new attitude after he got the team to jettison his competition and the clear cut quarterback of the future irks me more. The correct play with Brady would have been to move on after the Falcons Super Bowl, but that would have been tough. But reading these Jimmy Garoppolo quotes about how he thought he was better than Brady when he was here, and these rumblings that Belichick believed it--I don't believe that. That would mean you had the two best quarterbacks, easily, on the same team. Which is possible. But I don't see how you could be better than Brady was in last year's AFC Championship game. That was Jordan-level. There were virtually no windows for him to put balls in, and yet, he put the ball where it had to be, against that defense, and with the injuries the Pats had, time and again. Only quarterback in the league who wins that game.
* The MLB Hall of Fame ceremony is coming up. People complain a lot about the various Hall of Fames getting worse, "a joke," etc., because of who is inducted. Phil Housley in hockey, for example, Jack Morris for baseball. I like when lots of people get in the Hall of Fame. It's like a cool thing to get to be into with a player who was your favorite or one you really liked from the past or whom you enjoyed watching play. We all know who is better than whom in a Hall of Fame. We get that Nellie Fox is not Joe Morgan, Catfish Hunter is not Christy Mathewson. So? Nothing is cheapened. You know who has a huge gripe for being left out? People talk about Tony Oliva, Gil Hodges, Dave Parker, but Fred McGriff should have been in a while ago. Career .886 OPS. Led the league in home runs twice. Does not have 500 home runs for the solitary reason of the 1994 strike. 30 home runs ten times. Eight 100 RBI seasons. Postseason stud. A rich man's Harold Baines. Gave you average, too. Ted Simmons also needs to be in.
* Baseball's defensive metrics mean nothing to me. The best way to measure defense remains to watch a player play defense. You can tell me all you wish, with numbers, that J.D. Martinez is a decent defensive outfielder, but I am watching a player turn and go back on a ball like he has two of those Revolutionary War-sized cannonballs in his back pockets. Jackie Bradley's defense is bizarrely, desperately overrated by Boston media types. He is an average defensive center fielder.
* Bryce Harper may be more overrated than Jonathan Toews, which is an impressive accomplishment.