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Thinking about some sports things

Wednesday 1/16/19

Listened to a lot of Sam Cooke today and a lot of Buddy Holly. I'm floored Cooke did what he did with a song structured like "Chain Gang" (those "let's all swing the hammer now" backing vocals/unison grunting) and about that particular subject matter and had a hit with it. As for Buddy Holly, a lot of focus on the Garage Tapes and the Apartment Tapes. I'm not getting enough done. I need to have two or three straight days of straight up history, where I just go. Where I then recount what was done in these pages and even those who know what I do encounter the account and say, "Surely that is not possible, not even for him." Those are the days I need. I am having a hard time sleeping and I'm waking up with this heavy, fog bank of a headache. I started reading John Williams' Nothing But the Night for a TLS piece. Nothing but the overwritten sentence, more like it. No wonder lit bizzers pretend to like him so much. What a flabby writer. You feel like you could punch his sentences and they'd jiggle about like a fat person's gut. Am I allowed to say fat person anymore?

But I'm unwinding in this death trap of an apartment right now--I leave the lights off so I don't have to see what a hell-space I presently have to exist in--so I will keep it light. We'll keep it to sports thoughts that have been occurring to me.

1. Kyrie Irving is a coach and team-killer.

2. Stanley Morgan should be in the Hall of Fame. Side story: When I was a very young boy, I was at my grandmother's--the good one, not the one who deemed me a bastard because I was adopted--and the Patriots were on the TV. I was watching with my uncle Gerard. (Or Gerry as he is called. I have two godfathers, zero godmothers. Gerard is one, the other is Tom. I made the mistake, when asked the question as to who my godparents were, in first grade, to say "Tom and Gerry." Like the battling cat and mouse. Ah, was there ribbing that day. It was the same day our teacher told a story about a boy her brother knew, and he had a friend who was sword fighting with another friend with curtain rods, and his eye was pierced and pulled right out of its socket. Well. That was a sobering story. We had tragedy and comedy that day in Ms. Atkinson's first grade glass.) The Patriots were quite bad back then. Even I comprehended this at whatever age I was. Four or five. But my uncle said that now that they had received the kickoff, they would go down the field and score. Which they did, on a pass--it must have been from Grogan--to Stanley Morgan. If this did not beat all. I was not sure if my uncle was magic, or the Patriots had all of a sudden become magically great. This I mulled over an Ellio's pizza that my good grandmother brought me.

(And look--a tossed off paragraph better than anything Lydia Davis has ever written. See how easy that is?)

3. I had never heard of Max Kellerman until this week. This country amazes me in not only how you can have zero talent and make millions of dollars, but that it might be preferred that you have zero talent. If this is true, I will find my way to be the exception, but this guy, can he really not understand how ridiculous he sounds with his obsession with saying Tom Brady is done? Sports really don't matter. But even if they did, you know I would have no problem telling it like it is. I answer to reality, via pure cognition, before I answer to what people now call feelz. Tom Brady isn't done. This man simply doesn't like him, and does not know football. It's obvious he doesn't know football. Why does he have this platform? Does his wit compensate for his ignorance? Obviously not. Is it because he "dares to go there"? You could get some drunken Patriots-hater from Woburn to go there. I'm going to help out the anti-Brady people. He's the exact player this year. But, in 2013, he really was not very good. I'm surprised more wasn't made of it nationally. He only completed 60.5% of his passes. Not good. Not good at all. He completed 65.8% this year.

4. Joe Montana is overrated. Usually he was not the best player on his own team.

5. I have come to hate WAR. People who love WAR want me to believe that Bobby Grich was a lot better than Ryne Sandberg. Grich would hit .263, hit 17 home runs, drive in 64, play good defense, walk a decent amount, but he didn't have a remarkable or even close to it OPS. Sandberg was sick. He was flat out sick. This guy was so good. 300 total bases is a lot of total bases. You can have a Hall of Fame career without ever having 300 total bases in a season. Carlton Fisk did. Sandberg had at least 300 total bases five times. As a second baseman. He led the league once. He led the league in runs three times, homers once, and triples one time when he had 19. That's a lot. He was dominant in every way in 1984 and won an MVP. He was better in 1985 when he hit 26 homers, drove in 83, scored 113, stole 54 bags, hit .305, and won a Gold Glove because he was one of the best defensive second basemen ever. But WAR says Grich is better. Grich is not 2/3 of the player that Sandberg was.

6. It's very difficult to have more walks in a season than hits. Basically, to do this, you have to be among the most feared power hitters ever--Barry Bond, Mark McGwire, for example--and hit lots of homers and have pitchers be so scared of you that they walk you often. Even then, it's very rare. Barry Bond's 2004 season is the most extreme example. Gene Tenace was a catcher and first baseman for the great A's teams of the 1970s. He had some power--like twenty-something homers a year--but he wasn't exactly Mel Ott. His average was usually abysmal. In 1974 he hit .211. He had 102 hits. And...110 walks to lead the league. This is difficult to process. It means he had an OBP of .367. He was not done. In 1977 he moves to the Padres and hits .233. Again he has 102 hits. Again he leads the league in walks with 125. His OBP is .415. The next year he hits .224, with 90 hits, 101 walks, .392 OBP. In 1980 he bats .222, with 70 hits, 92 walks, .399 OBP. In 1977, 1978, 1979 he is top three in the league in OBP. He may have the oddest, hardest to accept stat line in the history of the sport. I can make this even weirder. His 1977 OPS was .824. In 1986, the year the Mets won 108 games and won it all, future Hall of Famer Gary Carter finished third in MVP voting. He hit 24 homers with 105 RBI. His OPS was .776. In 1984, when the Detroit Tigers won it all, perennial All-Star catcher Lance Parrish hit 32 homers with 98 RBI. His OPS was .730. In 1985, Carlton Fisk, another Hall of Famer--and the best catcher in this discussion--hits a career best 37 homers, with 107 RBI. His OPS is .808. Still lower than Tenace in 1977. In case you were curious, he had 15 home runs and and 61 RBI that year. The vast majority of his value was in his ability to walk. There is no bigger gap in the sport's history between a player's ability to hit and his ability to walk. His career OPS was better than both Carter's and Fisk's, two guys who are easily among the ten best catchers of all-time.

7. I pitched an op-ed how, on the field, Jackie Robinson was one of the six most influential players--in terms of changing how the game was played--in baseball history, something we overlook now because we are all about race race RACE! To the extent that the full picture of the actual reality is lost. Jackie Robinson is more than the guy who broke a color barrier. We should not lose sight of that. Don't you want to read that piece? Unfortunately, one of the places I pitched it to is headed up by a bigot, so that's an obstacle. But we'll see. I also pitched a Patriots op-ed idea.

8. Gritty, the Flyers mascot, is annoying. It gives hipsters who know nothing about sports, care nothing about sports, an opportunity to do "snark" on social media with their latest meme that they think makes them a sports conferee.

9. What has become of BC hockey? They were drilled at home tonight 7-2 by Maine and I was not a little surprised.

I will get in bed now and listen to Orson Welles in The Adventures of Harry Lime. The Essential Oils have been applied and hopefully there will be a strong early start.

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