Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Going both ways

Growing up, I never played baseball. I was afraid of the ball. Being at bat entailed someone hurling this missile at me as hard as they could, and hopefully, it would come within inches of hitting me but wouldn't actually hit me. Otherwise, while playing the field, someone would have just finished making contact with a missile that was hurled at them as hard as it could have been. The resulting action was always this same missile coming at me faster than it was thrown, possibly speeding across the ground, bouncing wildly, with the end result being that, hopefully, the ball would come within inches of hitting me but would just land in my glove. I wasn't a fan.

The odd thing is, baseball is now my favorite sport. I enjoy following it more than any other. I feel like this is partly because I am constantly in awe of how talented major league baseball players are. I mean I love football, but football is easy. You try to run past/through the opponent, occasionally tossing the ball through the air to a teammate. All of these actions are easily performed by anyone with even sub par athletic ability. Baseball, on the other hand...I mean, let's take golf for example. Everyone says how hard it is to be really good at golf. It takes so much control and blah blah blah. The fact remains that the ball is just sitting there. Imagine playing golf, but instead of the ball sitting on a tee or in the grass, someone is hurling it at you. That's baseball. There is nothing harder in all of sports than hitting a pitched ball.

That fact is why I am so enamored and amazed by switch hitters.

Where else is this common practice? A player of tremendous ability and talent decides, rather than always using their natural hand to bat with, they will use both, become ambidextrous, and often times bat with their weak hand. Something remotely similar is only done in soccer, where completely right-footed individuals are able to kick rather well with their left foot. I was one of these people playing soccer. But being a switch hitter just seems different.

The idea of becoming a switch hitter is to gain an advantage. Obviously. If that wasn't the case, no one would switch hit. For a natural right hander, batting left handed against a right handed pitcher gives the batter some sort of an advantage, most likely in seeing the ball better. However, how long must it take for a baseball player to practice with their off hand and become good enough where they choose to bat that way against a major league pitcher? Couldn't it be argued they might have been better off using all that practice time on their strong hand and just becoming a really good right handed hitter? No other athletes even attempt this strategy.

To my knowledge there has never been a switch shooter in basketball. Sure, people shoot from close range with their off hand, layups, hooks, and short bankers. But there has never been an NBA switch shooter. Yet imagine the benefit. A defender could never shade you to either side because you could pull up and shoot with either hand. When rising up to contest a shot, which hand does the defender jump towards? It seems to me a switch shooter could get at least a couple open shots each game that would have been contested for a normal shooter.

As far as I know there has never been a switch thrower in football. Brett Favre and quarterbacks of that ilk have very occasionally thrown passes with their off hand in the heat of a rush to a receiver within a couple yards of them. But there are no ambidextrous quarterbacks, yet imagine the possibilities. A defensive coordinator could never scheme a zone blitz to a specific side because you could roll out in either direction and throw on the run. Right handed quarterbacks rarely roll left because it is so hard to throw against your body. That would never be the case with a switch thrower. Heck, there would be infinitely less passes batted down by defensive linemen as well. Just getting that slight angle is often the difference between a batted pass and a completion in the NFL.

Perhaps there is 'something in the water' at baseball parks. Not only is switch hitting common practice, pitchers are even getting in on the action. The New York Yankees currently have a pitcher on roster who throws with both hands. Pat Venditte, on the Yankees minor league club in Staten Island, is a switch pitcher. He throws slightly side-armed when pitching lefty, yet he can be just as successful. There was an at-bat in 2008 where Venditte faced a switch hitter. The batter came up to the plate on one side so Venditte switched his glove to the other hand. The batter then moved over to the other side of the plate. Venditte switched his glove back. This went on for much longer than it should have before the umpire stopped play and forced the batter to step in and stay there, therefore giving Pat the upper hand. (No pun intended.)

(When someone utters the phrase 'No pun intended' isn't the pun always intended?)

In a slightly different situation, MLB star closer Billy Wagner could be considered a switch pitcher of sorts as well. It turns out Wagner is naturally right handed. Yet he throws blistering high 90's fastballs in the majors left handed, and has done so for years. The story goes that, as a kid, Wagner broke his right arm and learned to throw left handed. In no other sport does something like this happen. A major league left handed pitcher with a high 90's heater is right handed.

Then there is Ichiro Suzuki. He is a hall of fame Japanese baseball player. He came to America and will be a hall of famer here as well, even if he never plays another game. Ironically enough, one of the best hitters in recent memory bats left handed yet is naturally right handed. Unlike Wagner, this was definitely done on purpose. Ichiro's father forced him to bat left handed when he was growing up so he would be closer/quicker to first base. Every step counts and being a left handed batter makes him one step closer to the base, allowing Ichiro to beat out a handful of close plays each season.

Of course, these examples can be considered exceptions, yet there is frankly nothing exceptional about switch hitting to the common fan. Each team has at least one or two switch hitters. Besides being an advantage against pitching changes from the opponent, no one bats an eye when Mark Teixeira or Chipper Jones or Jorge Posada come to the opposite side of the plate as their previous at-bat.

The question of is it worth learning to switch hit is really impossible to answer. Would Bernie Williams have played so long in the majors if he only batted from one side of the plate? Maybe if he only took swings right handed he would have been pinch hit for in certain instances, and been less important to his team. Would Mickey Mantle not have been such a historic hitter batting from only one side of the plate? Who knows? Maybe he would have been better if he concentrated on simply batting from one side.

The odd thing to me is that something so commonplace seems so extraordinary. Again, maybe my fascination is aided by the fact that I never played baseball long enough to get good at hitting with my strong hand. But every now and then, when I'm just playing around I pretend to be lefty. I shoot a three lefty on the court. I toss a football left handed to a friend. I imagine how long it would take, how much practice would be needed, to perfect that skill to reach the ability of my strong hand and it leaves my mind boggled.

Sometimes I hold the fork in my left hand while I eat. That's about as successful as I can get.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Miscellaneous Me

Running gags are great, like the Chuck Norris Lever or Bill Simmons' Draft Diaries. Here is this month's Miscellaneous Me.

- In the very first MLB Hall of Fame class, Ty Cobb received more votes than Babe Ruth.

- Just a prediction: Marvin Harrison will be thought of as this decade's O.J. Simpson.

- Milky Ways and Charleston Chews are not better frozen.

- Lord of the Rings is an example, one of a very few, where a movie version was better than the book.
- I never read the book, but I'm guessing Fight Club makes this list as well.

- David Blaine's street magic is oddly entertaining, even though it's clearly set up.

- The television show Last Comic Standing is like AAA minor league baseball where you have a mixture of young, up and coming performers, as well as older, failed veterans all competing on a level playing field.
- The MVP of the International League does not automatically get moved up to the majors.
- No one watches Triple-A baseball.

- Nothing delights me more than Red Sox players being put on the DL.

- Avon Barksdale is not a good name for a street thug.
- Stringer Bell is.

- Josh Cribbs is the NFL's all-time leader in kick return touchdowns.
- Josh Cribbs has returned 265 kicks in his career, 342 fewer than the all-time leader.

- I am so overly ready to be tremendously disappointed by the movie Inception.

- Futurama is my favorite previously canceled animated sitcom with a crustacean as a main character.

- Okay, let's get this over with:
- LeBron James is going to the Bulls.
- So is Chris Bosh.
- Dwyane Wade is returning to Miami.
- Dirk Nowitzki is returning to Dallas.
- Amar'e Stoudemire is returning to the Suns.
- Joe Johnson is going to the Knicks.
- Carlos Boozer sucks and does not deserve to be continually mentioned in these free agency conversations.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Youth vs. Experience

I guess experience is overrated. In Thursday's NBA draft, a college senior was not taken until pick 23. The entire lottery, and first 22 picks were all underclassmen. Even Trevor Booker, picked 23rd, was a surprise. I didn't expect him to go in the first round. Taking things a step further, look at the prospects for next year's draft. According to ESPN's draft expert, not only are there no incoming seniors atop the 2011 draft board; there is not a single CURRENT COLLEGE PLAYER in the top ten. Picks one through ten next season are all high school players or foreign players. I don't even know who the best incumbent college player is. Elias Harris? JaJuan Johnson? Dare I say, John Henson?

This happened for a number of reasons. One, which had been touched on when players were declaring, was the fact that many of the guys in this year's draft purposely left 'too' early to avoid next year's possible lockout/salary changes. Even current pending free agents are thinking of opting out of contracts that end in 2011 just to get a few more years of money guaranteed before the unknown. So perhaps this factored in to Ed Davis, Lance Stephenson, Daniel Orton, and many others leaving school when they could probably have used another year of growth.

Maybe the more pressing matter at hand though is the decline (demise?) of college basketball. Name the stars of college basketball. There aren't any. No one stays long enough to become a household name. John Calipari, the head coach at Kentucky, was at the draft two days ago. He said that today (meaning draft day) was the biggest day in Kentucky basketball history because they had their first number one overall selection in John Wall, as well as five players get drafted in the first round. What he forgot to mention in this interview was that at least three of those five guys were recruited to Kentucky knowing they would leave after one year. Also, Calipari decided not to bring up the fact that his current roster has no one on it. Rather than dubbing that the best day in Kentucky history, shouldn't it have been their darkest? Five players, all leaving early after failing to win a championship, and leaving their former teammates, classmates, coach and alumni with not a single player to lead this team next season.

Perhaps these things are cyclical. Once a new agreement is signed in the NBA, and things change with the salary cap and bargaining agreements, maybe players will decide to stay longer in college. Maybe players will be forced to stay longer in college. Who knows? But is experience overrated? Do these guys hurt themselves at all by leaving early? To decide this, I am going to take an arbitrary look at the greatest starting five of two groups of players: those who went straight from high school into the NBA versus those who stayed in school all four years. Now even though this is only a small sample of 12 players (let's give each team a 6th man) I am going to use this to decide the answer to the entire argument.

Starting Five of the Straight From High School Team:

C - Moses Malone
PF - Kevin Garnett
SF - LeBron James
SG - Kobe Bryant
PG - Monta Ellis? Wow. There has never been a good point guard to come straight from high school? Let me re-do this.

C - Moses Malone
PF - Kevin Garnett
SF - Tracy McGrady
SG - Kobe Bryant
Point Forward - LeBron James. What the hell. We don't need a point guard. Our sixth man will be Amar'e Stoudemire. This is a giant team, with Kobe, checking in at 6'6", being the smallest player.

Starting Five of the Four Year Graduates Team:

C - Bill Russell
PF - Tim Duncan
SF - Larry Bird
SG - Jerry West
PG - John Stockton. Unlike the high school team, the graduates team actually had point guards to choose from. I went with Stockton over someone like Steve Nash. Our sixth man will be Grant Hill. He can play a couple of positions, is a good defender, and wouldn't complain about coming off the bench.

Well, the graduates team is definitely more old-school, although we do have some recent players as well. The high school team is obviously mostly recent players, but all deserving (with the possible exception of Amar'e.) Let's take this position by position to see who has the edge and who would win in the battle of youth vs. experience.

Center: Moses Malone is one of the top dozen players ever. The problem is Russell is the greatest center to ever play. The edge goes to the graduates, but not overwhelmingly.

Power Forward: Again, a very close match. Kevin Garnett could be called the second best PF alive. However, without a doubt, the best is his opponent here, Tim Duncan. The edge again goes to the graduates, but not by much.

Small Forward: This match-up is not close. McGrady is a two-time league scoring champion but does not compare to Larry Bird. Although there could be a discussion about switching up the high school team's lineup and match-ups, when it comes to McGrady vs. Bird the huge edge goes to the graduates.

Shooting Guard: Jerry West is a legend. Kobe Bryant would be as well, if we were looking at him from 20 years in the future. I have to give the slight edge here to Kobe, just because of pure numbers. He won more, scored more, etc. I'm not sure who would win in a game of one-on-one with both in their prime, but from a historical standpoint, the edge goes to the high school team here.

Point Guard: Now this may have been unfair. There is no way John Stockton could guard LeBron James. Even bringing Hill off the bench to help guard him, LeBron has the tremendous edge in this match-up. Stockton is a very good player, but he isn't an all-time guy. He never won a title. He put up staggering numbers, but so has LeBron, in only a few short seasons. The edge goes to the high school team by a wide margin.

Overall Team: The size advantage goes to the high school team. The edge for winning pedigree has to be given to the graduates however. As for a lineup that could actually play well and cohesively together, a huge edge goes to the graduates. That seems like a team that could actually take the floor.

In the end, the winners are the team of graduates. But this (may) have been a slightly unfair exercise since the player pool for guys coming straight from high school to the NBA is small and, for now, plugged. The rules prevent this from happening currently, and no one before Malone had ever done it. In the end, the best pure roster could probably be made from players who went to college but left early: a mixture of youth and experience. However, it could be argued that eight of our 12 players here are all-time greats.

The fun part would be to compare these lineups to the 2011 Chicago Bulls. Derrick Rose, Joe Johnson, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Joakim Noah might want to take a run at them.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fantasy Football 103

I had some hesitation with writing posts about fantasy sports. You see, I'm not famous, so there is no opportunity gain from writing predictions and information in a post and having it come true. The fact is, I would much rather win my personal fantasy leagues, than point out some hidden facts and help out 'readers.' Perhaps this is rude of me. I mean, I am not even talking about big money leagues. Even ones I play in for free, I want to win and offer no help to my opponents.

But after much consideration, I felt like it was my duty to offer a helping hand to those in need. Shouldn't ones more fortunate help those who are less fortunate? Isn't that in the bible or something? I don't know, I have never read the thing. It has gotten some great reviews though. In this instance, my fortune does not stem from any monetary value, but rather a level of knowledge about fantasy sports that should not be taken lightly.

As you can see by the title, this post is not a 'How To' or 101 article, but a few steps ahead. Today I am going to reveal the underrated fantasy stars who can bring your 2010 football team to prominence, without spending a pretty penny. Since fantasy sports is all about value, (that is a line from the first paragraph of Fantasy 101 ironically) finding the players rated lower than they should be is key. These players are often times old, veterans who are not 'fun' to draft or root for, but still produce results. In honor of Isaac Bruce's retirement and Marvin Harrison's pending incarceration, (just an educated guess there) let's get to it.

Fantasy Football 103 - Finding value without spending early round money:

Quarterback: Any of them outside of the top five. Now this seems a bit odd, I know, but it is true. In one quarterback leagues, there is no reason to waste an early pick on one of the top guys. The reason is, the next tier of quarterbacks produce a ton of fantasy value, much more than a player at another position drafted around the same time. As an example, let's look at Eli Manning. He is by no means a fantasy star. He is the 11th rated player at his position, according to ESPN and Yahoo pre-rankings. Now that means, it is possible, in a standard 10-team league, Eli Manning won't even be drafted. However, last season, Eli finished in the top 15 in scoring in the entire NFL for any position (depending on league settings of course.) He scored more fantasy points last year than Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, who are both guaranteed top 10 picks. The reason is, quarterbacks simply score a LOT of points, and it's true for all of them. Using that same list, out of the top 23 scorers in all of fantasy last year, 17 of them were quarterbacks. In what standard league will 17 QB's even get drafted? This essentially means you can pick up a QB from the waiver wire after your draft is over and he could still finish in the top 25 of points scored. There is little reason to waste an early selection on a quarterback. Not even Sean Payton would waste his first round pick drafting Drew Brees.

Running Back: Thomas Jones, Darren McFadden, Kevin Smith. With this position, it is often hard to find value. So many running backs get drafted, and early. Finding a good one outside of the top 25 at the position is usually about taking a chance on an injury or taking a chance on a time share. There aren't many teams who employ the one running back offense anymore. Just look at the Dallas Cowboys.

Thomas Jones, moving to a new team, will have to earn his carries. However, he just flat out gains yards every year. Right now he is behind Jamaal Charles on the Chiefs depth chart, but Charles has never been a full-time runner before. He is a small guy on a bad team, and I don't see him having 200 carries. If Jones gets his chance and once again starts to tally up the yardage, Kansas City will be forced to give him more chances.

Darren McFadden is another story entirely. He has pretty much sucked so far in his NFL career. I have heard that he had trouble learning the play book. But for someone that talented, it seems eventually he should get his act together. Year three also seems like that time. Another factor to consider is that his competition at the position stinks. Justin Fargas is gone and Michael Bush hasn't put a full year together since he ran for Louisville. With a much more competent quarterback leading the Raiders, I expect a big year from McFadden, finally.

With Kevin Smith there is much less ambiguity. Do you believe he will be healthy for week one or not? That is the only question to answer. After tearing his ACL near the end of last season, and having the Lions draft Jahvid Best this past April, Kevin himself probably isn't too optimistic. However, at what he will cost to obtain, I would take the chance on a runner who has been very good for a very bad team; a poor man's Frank Gore if you will. If Smith is healthy by September, there is no way the Lions give the ball to the rookie instead of him. Then again, it is the Lions.

Wide Receiver: Mike Wallace, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Torry Holt. Finding an undervalued wide receiver is really all about finding opportunity. Which guy is going to, at the very least, have passes thrown to him? Malcom Floyd might be a star. However, on a team with Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates, not to mention a good receiving running back, will Floyd even get a chance to catch more than 50 balls this year? I don't see it.

Mike Wallace, on the other hand, will get his chances. The Steelers traded away Santonio Holmes during the off-season. Hines Ward is getting slower by the day. The door is open for Wallace to be 'the guy' for the Steelers. Especially with all the question marks at QB, the Steelers need Wallace to be a stud week to week.

Speaking of question marks at QB, the Seahawks have one as well. The difference is, I believe Matt Hasselbeck will be back to his old form. And that means a big year from T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Seahawks were so bad last year that expectations have hit the floor. With that comes the opportunity for getting good value. Besides the fact that Seattle has no other number one guy, Housh is talented enough to win the team's confidence back anyway. He was supposedly hurt a lot of last year, which would explain the poor season, along with Hasselbeck being hurt. Look for T.J. to rebound in 2010, harking back to the days with the Bengals.

Torry Holt is an interesting case. He joined the pass-happy New England Patriots. Wes Welker is a huge injury question heading into the season. He is old and not fun to own anymore. All of these factors point to huge value potential from a player who will probably go undrafted in most leagues. Take a flier on him; what's the worst that can happen? I could see Brady relying on Holt this season, much like Jabar Gaffney had done in seasons past.

Tight End: Greg Olsen, Bo Scaife. Tight ends are, for the most part, replaceable. Finding value is about finding a player post-hype. A tight end, outside of the top 10 at the position, has a better chance of producing if he used to be thought of as a top 10 guy. Or maybe that's just my flawed logic. It seems to me that if someone used to be thought of highly and dropped for one reason or another, they at least have a chance to rebound. It seems more likely than a no-name coming out of the blue to have a big year. Greg Olsen has dropped every year mainly because of the Bear's offense. He should produce more this season with simply more stability in his team.

Bo Scaife is coming off injury, but returning to a young team with young stars. Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt should make it abundantly clear than no team will ever be targeting Scaife on defense. With Vince Young getting his act together, (on the field) the Titans should put up some more points this season, and Scaife should be the red zone target.

Kicker: no one. There is no value at kicker. Draft one in the last round or without spending more than $1 in an auction. There is no difference between the best kicker in the league and the 10th best. And this is true every year.

Defense: non applicable. Again, don't spend more than a dollar or two at auction. Yeah, the Jets might be the best defense in NFL history this season. I mean, it's not impossible. But finding value at defense is more about not overspending.

So there you have it. Hopefully no one will read this and no one will use my advice. That way, when it comes to my drafts, I will be free to cherry-pick my value players without fear.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The NBA season begins

I love the sport of basketball. I have played it for over 15 years. I have coached kids in the third grade all the way through high school. No sport moves faster or has better athletes than basketball. Calling myself a basketball fan is no stretch. However, I have suddenly found it hard to call myself an NBA fan considering I find it a chore to watch the games.

This past season, I watched a total of one NBA game in its entirety. The reason for that one game was because I attended it. The Washington Wizards played the Charlotte Bobcats in what can only be described as 'not worth reminiscing about.' Come playoff time, I tuned in for most of the games during every round. I watched only a handful from start to finish though. The title series between the Celtics and Lakers could not have been any less exciting for me since I greatly dislike both teams. I ended up feeling like I wanted the Celtics not to win more than I wanted the Lakers not to win, but really would have rather neither team won. Apparently I was alone in this feeling since the finals got some tremendous tv ratings, even though plenty of the games were terrible to watch. Ray Allen missed more shots in that series than during his entire Connecticut Huskies career.

Speaking of Ray, I'm in the camp that feels this series did not hurt Allen's legacy. I mean people barely thought of him or gave him credit historically anyway. He was neck and neck or even ahead of Reggie Miller in my mind, even before hitting seven 3's in the first half of game two. Yet, for some reason, he isn't thought of in that company. As far as Kobe Bryant's legacy, I am not quite sure if he was helped or hurt by this series. Sure he won another ring and finals MVP, but shooting 25% from the floor in a game seven doesn't exactly propel you to new heights. In my mind, Tim Duncan should still be considered a better overall player in terms of NBA history. I don't need to go through the two players' stats, all-star appearances, all-defensive teams, championships, and MVP's. They both have represented well as far as individual gains. The thing that separates Duncan from Bryant for me is the team success year in and year out. Tim Duncan's Spurs teams won over 50 games every single year of his career except the lockout-shortened '98-'99 season. Yet, even in the shortened season, the Spurs won 74% of their games and the NBA title. Kobe, on the other hand, led three campaigns where the Lakers won fewer than 55% of their games, including the dreadful '04-'05 season when they finished 34-48. Tim Duncan showed up to win every day for his entire career and I'm not sure Kobe did the same.

But I digress. With the regular season mercifully over and the finals having wrapped up, we finally get to the FUN part of the NBA season: the off-season! For people tired of hearing about the referees, for fantasy enthusiasts, and for college basketball followers, the off-season is the time we love. The draft and free agency are more entertaining than watching countless irrelevant games where the Timberwolves battle the Clippers in mid-January. This playoff season just proved even further how pointless the regular season has become. The Cavaliers were the best team all season long, and it wasn't close. Meanwhile, the Celtics gagged their way through the last 50 games of the year while 'getting healthy.' Which team made game seven of the finals and which team got eliminated early for yet another disappointing exit?

The NBA draft is great fun for me because I enjoy watching college basketball more than the professionals. I know the talent and quality of play is worse but the games seem to mean more on a nightly basis. So, come late June, I am pumped to see where these guys go (even though I will end up rarely seeing them play again, unless they become fantasy relevant.) This year's draft is deep and no one knows who is going to be picked where after #1. John Wall is going first. Evan Turner and Derrick Favors will be the second and third players chosen, in some order. After the top three however, your guess is as good as mine. There is a group of roughly 20 players who can go in any order you can imagine to round out the first round. DeMarcus Cousins is talented enough to go in the top three, but who trusts him? Greg Monroe is as well, yet so often didn't bring his A game in college. There are plenty of small school players looking to make noise, as well as big time recruits that left early, even though they didn't reach the level many expected of them. Luke Babbitt, from the former, has been predicted as high as 8th. Ed Davis and Lance Stephenson, from the latter, should have stayed in school and both would have gone in the top 8 next draft. Instead, they are just two of many waiting to see where they are bound for. There have been drafts in the past where we aren't sure who is going to be picked where. However, that is usually because no one deserves the high slots. It seems this time around, you can make a case for any number of players being taken 4 through the end of the lottery and the players left out won't be much worse.

On a side note, Greivis Vasquez graduated from the University of Maryland. He was a very good collegiate player and should be drafted Thursday, possibly in the second round. I expect he hopes to be taken by the Wizards. I know a lot of players would like to play professionally near where they went to college, but apparently Greivis has fans he cannot desert. I have attended three professional sporting events in D.C. in 2010 and I saw Vasquez at two of them. The third was Stephen Strasburg's major league debut. Vasquez might have been there, but if he was, no one cared. On the other two nights, one being the aforementioned Wizards game and the other a random Nationals game, Greivis was in attendance and the crowd loved him. Especially since all opposing ACC schools hated him when he was at Maryland, it seems like a nice fit if he stays in Washington.

Roughly a week and a half after the fun of the draft, NBA free agency commences. Now, normally, this is slightly exciting yet always underwhelming. It never finished like the NHL off-season where big name stars move all over the place. But this year has some hockey potential, if you will. In the back of my mind, I expect to be disappointed again. I expect LeBron to return to Cleveland. Wade will go back to Miami. Dirk and Amare will stay in Dallas and Phoenix respectively. Those all seem likely. But there is that off chance, that 'free agent summit' possibility, that these guys all talked and a handful want to team up together in 2011 and a few others want to move to new towns. Let's just say I'm not expecting it and I haven't gotten my hopes up, but wouldn't that just make the best time of the NBA year even better?

Then, come next November, I can draft my fantasy teams, and go back to not watching the sport I love, kind of.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Heroes...the show, not the archetype

I know, I know. I am six years late. Heroes was canceled; it sucked for most of recent memory. Well, perhaps more people should follow my example then. Rather than get roped in by a new show, I ignore most new television until I have heard enough positive feedback. For some reason, with Heroes, I ignored this feedback for a long time, until the show was canceled in fact. But my foresight ended up being just as good as hindsight, because I started my Heroes viewing experience planning to watch season one, of which I had heard many good things, and then stop. I would avoid the terrible seasons, the slow plot lines, the character turnover of the remaining seasons, as well as avoid the disappointment. So I did it. I watched Heroes season one and nothing more. It was exciting and cool but I can't help but think they even missed the boat on the 'successful' episodes.

Now bear with me as I explain my feelings on the show, since I have only watched those 23 episodes and nothing more. I do not know what happened to Hiro back in the 1600's. I had no reason to assume this was even a problem, since he could simply teleport himself back to his own time, but since they ended the season with that clip, I would guess it foreshadowed something. What that is I don't really care. I also realize Sylar was taken or crawled away on his own, and is probably not dead. I don't know this for sure, but don't care. Same with Peter. Peter is alive I'm sure. Nathan should be dead. Whether these things are the case in season two is of no concern to me.

As for what does concern me, the plot itself is excellent. It is an exciting and cool premise. These random folks get super powers and have to adjust to them, while at the same time, having their lives intertwined and connected in order to save the world. The actually story arc of this volume was also good. A weird company is kidnapping people and tagging them and hunting down these people with abilities. In the mean time, a crazy, power hungry individual is hunting these same people down with the objective being to kill them and harvest their ability. Sounds awesome enough. I am all in.

I had been told that the story in future seasons just moved too slowly to keep people interested. Well, in my opinion, this was partly the case, even in season one. The story moved very slowly. I think the characters and action was enough to keep us interested, but the plot itself advanced at a snail's pace. It took over 15 episodes for us to find out who the hell Claire's father was. Most of the plot that advanced was simply character drama and feelings of the future. I could feel myself disinterested when certain characters dominated the story, as I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere fast 'that week.' The character of Nikki (the mom with a split personality) was so slow moving that I dreaded seeing her on screen. It took nearly the entire season for her to figure out what her problem was and it felt more agonizing than interesting. Other than her, I enjoyed most of the other story lines, and they moved just fast enough to keep me wanting more, yet not fast enough to carry any episode. Not enough happened.

What I did love were most of the characters. Hiro, the time twister, was engaging and fun to root for. He took a while to figure out his purpose and master his skill, yet I didn't mind waiting for it. The same goes for Peter. My favorite episode of the season was when Hiro accidentally transported five years into the future with his friend, Ando. They met future Hiro and future Peter, who were both really bad ass. It was great. (Not to mention future Sylar, but I'll get to him.) The Peter of the future is seemingly all powerful, with so many abilities and no weaknesses, other than his attitude. He can fly, read people's minds, stop time, teleport, heal himself, generate nuclear power, move things with his mind, etc. I would have watched him battle Sylar for three straight episodes. But that leads me to my ultimate problem with the show, and the downfall I couldn't get past.

There were too many ability-related loopholes for me to ignore. Suresh's next door neighbor had the ability to control people's actions with her words, yet this is, for some unexplained reason, not effective on Sylar. Sylar kills her, steals this very valuable abiltiy, and then never uses it again. Did he just have a set of default powers he liked to turn to in a jam? Why wouldn't he command Hiro not to stab him or to travel into the past and not come back? Why wouldn't he tell Peter to blow up New York so he wouldn't have to? Sylar could also, apparently, break Hiro's ability to stop time. He did this near the end of the season, in his mother's apartment. Sylar unfroze time and broke Hiro's sword. By establishing that Sylar is this freakin' powerful, how could anyone, especially Hiro, get close enough to stab him 'to death?' He could stop multiple bullets in mid-air and shoot them back at their origin, while fighting off the only other person as strong as he (Peter) but could not prevent a short, fat, Japanese kid from stabbing him? And Hiro did not even freeze time when he stabbed him. Did I mention that Sylar also had superhuman hearing and could hear people's heart beats? Also, he could instantly melt metal, like the metal of a sword, without even touching it. He decided to ignore all of these powers in the heat of battle and took the stabbing like a man.

The show was just too careless with how they delegated out powers, and it wasn't just Sylar. Peter was just as, if not more powerful than Sylar. He was seemingly immortal. At the very end of the last episode, Nathan flies Peter into the sky so when he explodes, it won't hurt anyone but the two of them. Why did Nathan have to do this? Peter can fly on his own. Also, why was this a better option than shooting Peter like they originally planned? After he was shot, as soon as they removed the bullet, he would heal himself and be as good as new. Picking nits even more, why did this bomb situation even get to this point? Hiro and Peter, the bad ass versions, can both travel back and forth through time. Why wouldn't they have gone back and changed things? At that point, after five more years passing, Peter especially would have been unstoppable. He could have gone and killed Sylar. He could have gone and killed Ted, the man who had the original power to explode like a nuclear bomb. The two of them could have traveled to any point in the past and changed whatever they liked, including the planning by Peter's mother and her 'group' to let the bomb happen in the first place.

In the end, the show was definitely entertaining. It was engaging at times and mostly fun to follow. The slow movement of the plot was pretty much overshadowed by the excitement they were able to throw in. My only problem, which I cannot get past, is the blatant laziness of introducing all these useful and important powers which end up being of no consequence to the defining scenes of the show. If you are going to go through the trouble of making these certain people so powerful, then follow through with it, and have it make sense. I mean they even had a scene early on where Mr. Bennett and the Haitian had Nathan cornered. As we know, the Haitian is able to stop the use of abilities in the people surrounding him. He is, for lack of a better comparison, a temporary 'cure' for people with powers. Yet, how did Nathan escape their grasp and avoid getting taken in to their secret lab? He used his super power and flew away.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Great moments in IMDB history

'Child Actor turned Not Complete Failure' Division:

1. Astin, Sean. This lovable little tyke was acting at the age of 14, most notably in the movie The Goonies as Mikey Walsh. Astin followed that up with starring roles in Toy Soldiers and Rudy. Rather than becoming a crazy addict, like most child stars, he went on to have major roles in some of the biggest movies of the last decade including Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Alvin and the Chimpmunks: The Squeakquel.

2. Barrymore, Drew. What an odd life Drew Barrymore has lived. She played Gertie on E.T. at the tender age of seven. She was adorable. Then, she actually fell into the child actor stereotype. She became a troubled teen, but fortunately turned her life back around. The list of movies Barrymore has gone on to star in is lengthy, not to mention voice-over roles on the popular television cartoons The Simpsons and Family Guy. She went from child star to another wasted talent to one of the richest actresses in the world.

3. Brolin, Josh. Believe it or not, this leading man was also one of the spunky kids from the 1985 film The Goonies. However, where Sean Astin made his way on mainly bit parts and side characters, Josh Brolin went from child actor to major star as recently as just a few years ago. In just the last three years, at the age of 40, Brolin nabbed lead roles in No Country for Old Men, American Gangster, W., Milk, and Jonah Hex. With the track record of child stars going from famous to infamous so regularly, it is hard enough to have a successful career, let alone becoming a leading man on the big screen. Now I don't expect Jonah Hex to get Brolin any Grammy nods, but he has come a long way from The Goonies.

'Box Office Smashing Success' Division:

1. Bloom, Orlando. Mr. Bloom's actual acting ability/talent are not going to be addressed during this passage. That is for another blog. Richard Roeper probably already wrote that post. The fact is that Orland Bloom, having only had a substantial role in less than 20 films, has somehow managed to be a main character in six of the 30 top grossing films in the history of cinema. To take it a step further, the gross on Orlando Bloom films ranks him in the top 15 all-time, despite having so few movies to qualify with. For some perspective, Robert DeNiro slides in essentially even (depending on the source) with Orlando Bloom in total career gross despite being a part of more than three times as many films.

2. Smith, Will. He is a star. Will Smith went from a rap star to a television star to a movie icon. Everyone knows he is one of the most popular actors around. But you may not be aware of just how ridiculously successful he has been. Similarly to Bloom, Will Smith has not spent much time playing side characters or doing bit parts. He has fewer than 30 roles to his credit. However, when he stars in a movie, he makes it count. Will Smith is the only actor ever to star in eight consecutive films to domestically gross over $100 million. Those films also make Smith the only person to ever have eight consecutive movies open at number one in the box office. A couple of Smith's movies did not reach the $100 million plateau. One of them happened to be Ali, where he was nominated for an Oscar. In total, Smith was the leading man in 12 movies that made over $100 million in the U.S. alone. I suppose because he knows what got him there, and perhaps he read my previous post about sequels, here is a list of Will Smith projects in the works: Men in Black III, Bad Boys 3, Hancock 2, I Robot 2, I am Legend prequel, Independence Day 2, and Independence Day 3. Talk about milking the proverbial cash cow...

'Please Stop Starring in Movies' Division:

1. Rock, Chris. He is a tremendous comedian. I am not denying that. He is a hilarious man. He is not, however, a movie star. Venturing through Chris Rock's filmography is more depressing than Schindler's List. Since the turn of the century, Rock has been in ten bad movies. (I am including Grown Ups, which has not come out yet, but come on.) To be honest, the only GOOD movies he has been in were animated, children's movies. Dogma came out in 1999. That is an enjoyable movie. Since the year 2000, you could not pay me to sit and watch any movie where Chris Rock is acting. I would watch Madagascar with a baby cousin of mine, sure. But it seems if Rock supplies anything besides his voice, the movie is sure to flop.

Well there you have it: a quick journey through the Internet Movie Database. IMDB is guaranteed to waste any lazy afternoon. It's for nerds; it's YouTube for people who wish to not be visually stimulated. It's movie Wikipedia with no chance that some loser just edited the details to say that Will Smith starred in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The third dimension

Depth. This is definitely the dimension of the coming decade. Length was really a 1990's thing. People liked being tall. Wearing stripes was big. The aughts (2000's) was all about width. Women like Beyonce and Kim Kardashian were all about having curves and having some width to them. Well in the teens, the dimension we, as a society are focusing on, is depth. This is most evident in our cinema.

Movies are flashy, grand, exciting events. I never got out of a movie and thought it was too flat, thought it needed another dimension. I never finished watching a sporting event on television and felt I was not close enough to the action. I was at my home for god's sake. Well, apparently I was alone in these thoughts, for everyone else wanted to be closer. We graduated from side-scrolling video games, like the old Mario games, which I suppose are referred to as one dimensional even though one dimension is just a dot. You could not move off the one plane; there was simply up/down and left/right. We now have movies and games as we are used to, technically in three dimensions, but I guess just considered 2D. You can traverse the terrain or watch actors have width and depth. When Tom Cruise is jumping from speeding train to helicopter, he has depth to him, but he doesn't fly out of the theater canvas. Therefore, another dimension would apparently be ideal. (I don't know why old movies aren't also 3D. They really are, just 'less' three dimensional, if that's possible. Because How to Train your Dragon 3D is definitely just three dimensions. It is not four. If it was 4D, you would watch the movie through time and it would be over before it started. So I'll just refer to the new movies as 3D and the old movies as obsolete.)

To get a feeling for our new obsession with the third dimension just take a look at upcoming movie releases for later in 2010: Step Up 3D, Saw VII 3D, Jackass 3D. None of those are jokes. The funny thing is, if I was going to make a joke about how silly it is to make all these movies in 3D, the examples I would use are definitely Step Up, Saw, and Jackass. I guess that's irony. Along with the fact that every single children's movie being released is required to be in three dimensions so parents have to wear those glasses, movie companies are making just any movie they want pop out at you. Is there any reason a new Step Up movie needs to pop? (But, to be fair, is there any reason a new Step Up movie needs to be made at all?) What benefit am I gaining from viewing Jackass in another dimension?

I can't quite decide if this is a fad, or will just take a while to perfect. Still having to wear the glasses screams fad. However, it seems as though many companies are hoping the latter is true, since 3D televisions and 3D tv networks are in production. Soon, we will be able to see Scott Van Pelt's bald head in our living room when watching Sportscenter on ESPN 3D. This isn't a joke either. I kind of wish it was.

There is a part of this I don't understand though. Were people starting to feel like high definition channels and movies packed with special effects weren't real enough? What sparked this phenomenon? James Cameron decided to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make Avatar, a movie I am told benefited greatly from the added dimension. (I did not see it, partly out of lack of desire and partly out of spite.) But most of the others don't come off any better. I actually feel like 3D often makes them worse. I saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D and it really was more distracting than anything. It didn't add anything to my viewing experience. To be honest, in hindsight, I would have rather seen it in 'normal' 2D. What was not real enough about regularly filmed movies and television? Watching a hockey game in HD wasn't beautiful enough? Now we want Evgeni Malkin's face coming right at us on a check? Lord of the Rings and Transformers weren't fancy enough in 2D? Now we want the New Zealand landscape or Shia LaBeouf constantly screaming "NO NO NO!" in our living room?

Call me old fashioned I guess, but when I was a lad, I could sit in front of a 25' tall movie theater screen, watching Alcatraz island get blown up during The Rock, and enjoy it. I was happy with the primitive film delivery. Kids these days are just getting spoiled.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Million dollar musical chairs

The college sports landscape was flipped on its head...almost. In the end (assuming this is the end, at least for this year) the only moves made were of no real consequence. Yeah Boise State will switch conferences in 2011, but still not to a BCS conference. And yeah, Nebraska and Colorado are leaving the Big 12, but they don't drive business in football or basketball anymore, and really no one even cares about the latter.

It seems as though the Big 12 will be left with 10 teams and keep all their big names (and have to change the conference name? Probably not, since the 'Big 10' has had 11 teams for years now.) They are not allowed to have a football championship game anymore, with just 10 teams, according to the current NCAA rules. But that will be the biggest, and really only, side effect of this whole hoopla.

The Big 10 will now have 12 teams after adding Nebraska. The Pac-10 will be stuck at 11 for now after adding Colorado. No one knows what Notre Dame will do, although they will most likely stay independent for 2010 and 2011. The prize pig, University of Texas, will stay right where it is. The Big 12 commissioner can step back from that ledge after almost being forced to fold, or combine with the Mountain West conference and possibly lose his BCS automatic birth.

The interesting thing through all this was how meaningless college basketball is in the grand scheme of things. It is considered just as much as women's field hockey. Kansas, one of the top five college basketball schools in the history of athletics, was not wanted by anyone. Do you need any more proof than that? To top it off, they are okay at football; they aren't terrible. But they aren't good enough.

My real confusion with this whole story was how the Big 12 became everyone's candy dish to pick at. I completely understand that money drives every move and every decision. The schools were considering moving to increase their income. I get that. But why was the Big 10 more profitable than the Big 12? They have been a worse football conference for years. The Big 12 is not only really good and competitive nationally in recent years, but has also been, without a doubt, the most entertaining conference to watch. Led by high powered offenses, almost every Big 12 team the past decade or so has been fun to watch, win or lose. Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas, and the other 'bad' Big 12 schools have even had their years of offensive dominance. Throw in power houses Oklahoma and Texas, and I don't get why this conference was making so much less money than the less talented, less exciting, less successful Big 10. It doesn't add up. The Big 10 has their own tv network, and the Big 12 doesn't? Who's idea was that? Would you rather watch a 55-49 barn-burner when Texas Tech plays Kansas or witness the debacle that would be an Iowa vs. Wisconsin game where neither team tops 17 points?

After lots of panicked athletic directors and fans, the realignment of college sports seems to have fizzled out. But it sure was interesting while it lasted. And if this could come up so suddenly and seemingly out of the blue in 2010, it might happen again in 2011 or a few years later, when television contracts are up for review. It actually is kind of fun that there is a chance, whether slim or realistic, that the whole landscape of amateur sports can be flipped at the drop of a hat, or in this case, the drop of a wallet.

In the future, be prepared for the possibility of more movement. I wouldn't mind seeing 16+ team power conferences and a change in the BCS. Whether it worked or not, it would be fun to try. Imagine having four power conferences, the SEC, Big 10, Pac 10 and the BFC. The Big 10 and Pac 10 would eat up the rest of the Big 12 with one getting Texas and the other getting Oklahoma. The SEC would devour all the good ACC schools, including Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State and Clemson. Rutgers, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and the viable Big East schools would be Big 10 bound. The rest of the schools around the country who mattered would join the BFC. BFC of course stands for Big Freakin' Conference, and would be the fourth major conference in college football, containing schools from all over the nation. Now who wouldn't have fun with this? Watching USC play Texas every year as Pac 10 rivals wouldn't plant you in front of the tv set? Oklahoma would join Michigan and Ohio State as they grew a three way monster rivalry. With Florida now playing Florida State and Miami year in and year out, the best high school Floridians would have their hands full deciding where to attend. The winners of the four conferences could play a two round championship tournament, deciding once and for all who is the best team every season. This would be fantastic.

Boise State and Utah would still not be involved.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

All I really need to know, I learned at Stephen Strasburg's ML debut

The first pitch of the game spun out of the young phenom's hand just under 100 miles per hour. It crossed home plate outside the strike zone. Over 40,000 people erupted in boos. I assumed they were booing the home plate umpire for daring to call a pitch thrown by Stephen Strasburg a ball. However, I also thought that, perhaps, some of the sellout crowd was booing Strasburg himself, for not living up to expectations. Wasn't he supposed to throw nothing but strikes?

In the end, that is pretty much what he did. In his first ever Major League start, the Washington Nationals rookie right hander struck out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates and did not walk a single one. Last night was the most electric sporting event I have ever attended. We haven't seen an athlete live up to and surpass such high expectations since LeBron James' rookie year in the NBA.

Before pitch number one was even thrown, a few hours before the scheduled start time, I arrived at Nationals Park to soak it all in. But also because I had nothing else to do yesterday. But I am going to focus on the 'soaking it in' aspect. I have been to a couple Nationals games prior to this event. I have even waited in the game day cheap seats line where they give away a couple hundred $5 tickets, one per person, no saving for friends. But yesterday was different. Around 2 in the afternoon, there were already people lined up outside the ticket booth waiting for theirs. Fortunately, I had bought my ticket online two weeks ago, so I was free to go to lunch. But witnessing 50 or so people leaning against a wall, knowing they are going to be waiting for over 3 hours, and not even knowing what time they had arrived, since it was clearly before me, was something new to Washington Nationals fandom, to say the least. By the time the front gates opened up for batting practice, roughly two and a half hours prior to the national anthem, I entered Nationals Park with a few thousand others. The line for the $5 seats had extended into the street and onto the opposing sidewalk. As I entered, I wondered if all those people would get their cheap ticket or if someone would be left without a chance to see Him. After I walked in, I quickly forgot about these people.

I made my way down to field level, after finding a row not guarded by a ticket usher. 15 feet away was the Baseball Tonight crew of Karl Ravech, Orel Hershiser, and my favorite baseball writer under 6 feet tall, Tim Kurkjian. I watched in fascination as seemingly normal people took picture after picture of three television personalities. Okay, Orel is a hall-of-famer. I guess I could even understand a quick shot of Tim, he is a hall of fame journalist. But does anyone need a picture of Karl Ravech?

Behind the Tonight crew, batting practice was taking place. Ross Ohlendorf walked by and people started yelling his name for an autograph. Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek were there as well, with similar results. For the uninitiated, these are three Pirates pitchers who would not be recognized by a single person, other than relatives, if they were shopping for groceries and weren't wearing their jersey. But with that jersey on, and with Strasburg Fever in the air, everyone was famous enough last night.

The National Anthem was performed by an (apparently) world renown saxophonist named Jaared. The crowd agreed with my skepticism by giving a gentle chuckle at the announcement. We were just trying to calm ourselves down before the night's festivities. And actually, the performance was pretty sweet. He even milked a bunch of notes because, you know, he's world renown.

Strasburg's first (and second) pitch summed up the Nats fans. Two balls, both thrown 98 miles per hour ended in resounding boos. They (and I) didn't come to see balls. Strasburg settled in and got comfortable. He then turned dominant and overpowering, rather quickly, I might add. After a first, loud out, he went on to strike out 14 batters in seven innings, including striking out the side in his last inning of work, and still throwing consistently 98-99 mph while doing so. After a Pirate got his timing down, speeding his bat up for the gas, Strasburg would drop the hammer, throwing an 82 mph curve, buckling knees and taking no prisoners. He touched 100 mph on one pitch and the crowd loved it, even though it wasn't a strike. They didn't care. Any time there were two strikes on a batter, the crowd would rise and cheer, as if it was the last out in the ninth and they were waiting to secure the victory. The Nationals fans, for one night at least, were just as excited to see their young gun secure another K.

He made one bad pitch all evening, which resulted in a two-run home run, and in fact, gave Pittsburgh the lead at the time. Good thing the rest of the Nats showed up yesterday as well, rallying to take the lead back and allowing Strasburg to get a W in his first career start.

After the last out was recorded by Matt Capps, my first inclination was to downgrade the starter's performance because of the opponent. It was, after all, the Pirates. But then I thought about it, and decided that doesn't matter. The Pirates are still a Major League lineup (no matter how 'barely' that may be.) And he was still throwing like he belonged, no matter who was holding a bat waiting for the pitch. I look forward to attending another Strasburg start, to see if he gets better as he learns, which seems scary for the rest of the national league I'm sure.

I have a couple of parting thoughts apart from the guest of honor. Adam Dunn's home run that gave the Nats back the lead was a monster of a shot. It went into the second deck in right field. The right fielder turned and jogged towards the wall just to make Jeff Karstens (the pitcher on the mound) feel better about it. But it was definitely one of those blasts were the outfielders don't need to move.

Also, Tyler Clippard's motion is something to behold. He was a former Yankee, but only pitched in a few games which I never witnessed, because if I did, I would have rememered. His motion is Tim Lincecum-esk. He wraps his right arm back towards the dirt before his release. It is really rather mesmerizing.

Lastly, Andrew McCutchen is the smallest professional athlete I have ever seen in my life. He is listed at 5-10 but there is no way he's taller than 5-8, with his shoes on.

By the way, when Strasburg departed, the big board flashed a stat saying he had set a Nats record. I assumed it was going to be the record for most strikeouts in a National's pitching debut. Or most K's for any Nationals rookie. But I had already been shortchanging him. Strasburg, in his first ever start, had set the club record for strikeouts in a game. Period.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Is anything really unbreakable?

A couple of things heading into the NBA and NHL finals this past week caught my eye, a couple of 'records' if you will. The first was that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers franchises have won 32 of the 63 NBA titles. With the two playing each other, this will make it 33 of 64. They have won more than half the titles in the history of the sport. Written another way, the other 30 franchises combined have won fewer titles than the Celtics and Lakers. Talk about dynasties.

The other fun fact I realized was in the NHL. Marian Hossa has now made the Stanley Cup final three consecutive seasons...for three different teams. In the 2008 final, he was on the Penguins. During the off-season, he switched teams to the Red Wings, who made the 2009 final. He then switched teams again, this time to the Blackhawks, who are in the 2010 final. Extraordinary. He happened to be on the losing side of the first two trips, so we'll have to wait and see if the third time is a charm.

But anyways, these things got me thinking about records, especially individual player records, and how the word 'unbreakable' is tossed around so haphazardly. Besides Bruce Willis in that movie, I think it was called Die Hard 3, is anything really unbreakable? Sports channels always air those 'Top 10 unbreakable records' shows. Most of the time, I end up just being pissed afterwards at their idea of unbreakable.

They put Cal Ripken's consecutive games played record in the top 10 because no one can possibly break that. Well, they also put Lou Gehrig's record on those lists for 60 some odd years until Cal broke it. Doesn't that rule out this record as being unbreakable when it just changed hands within the past decade?

Derrick Thomas' record for 7 sacks in one game is often on the football shows as well. It's a fantastic record, no doubt. However, I get the feeling they add it to the lists to seem cool, putting a defensive stat up there. Is it really unbreakable? Thomas himself had another game where he had 6 sacks, and the people they interview spout off on how he could have had 9 or 10.

Rather than just complain, I thought I would make my own short list of records that actually won't be broken, taking just from the major sports. Oh, there are women's tennis records that are impossible to top? Who cares? In no particular order:

1) Fernando Tatis (MLB) - two grand slams in one inning. Good luck breaking that. I mean, it is technically possible for someone to tie him, no matter how unlikely, but to break it? Not going to happen.

2) Johnny Vander Meer (MLB) - two consecutive no-hitters thrown. Again, could it be tied? Well, no probably not, but I can't rule it out. Breaking it, on the other hand, by throwing three straight no-hitters, I think can be lumped into the category of unbreakable.

3) Cy Young (MLB) - (no, not the career wins) 749 career complete games. The wins total won't be approached either, but I think the complete games record is even better. To put it in some perspective, the active leader in complete games is Roy Halladay. He has 54 in 13 seasons. Being somewhat generous, and taking into account only a third of 2010 has passed and his early years he wasn't getting full work yet, lets give him 6 per full year pitched. To reach Cy, Halladay would have to pitch around 116 more seasons. At that point he would be about 149 years old. Now I'm no doctor, but this seems unlikely. Let's call Cy's record unbreakable.

4) Wilt Chamberlain (NBA) - take your pick. Much like Cy Young, Wilt can be given a few notches on the unbreakable records list. 100 points scored in one game. Over 27 rebounds per game for a full season. I think the best, however, is his points per game scored in one season at 50.3. He averaged more than 50 points a game, every game, for the entire year. The last season anyone was even within a baker's dozen of that was Jordan in '86-'87, when he ended the year at just over 37 points per game.

5) Otto Graham (NFL) - 10 consecutive championship game appearances. These were before the Super Bowl existed, and some before the NFL was established, but nevertheless, his record of reaching the professional football title game in 10 straight seasons is unreachable. (For good measure, Otto played one year of professional basketball during the streak, and made the championship there as well.) The only recent player that can even be considered close to this record is Jim Kelly. He made four straight Super Bowls, not even half way to Otto.

6) Dave Schultz (NHL) - 472 penalty minutes in one season. In an 82 game season, if a player were to receive a five minute major, every game, for the whole year, they would still fall well short of this record. In fact, second place on this list didn't even fare that well. No one in history has come within 60 minutes of Schultz's record. (I would have picked anything Wayne Gretzky did but this seemed more interesting. Wayne is called the Great One for a reason. I mean he has 970 more career points than any other player to ever lace up the skates.)

So, to answer my question from the title, yes. I would have thrown in Travis Henry's record of having 11 children with 10 different women, but I don't have sources to confirm that this has not been surpassed.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The boys of summer

With Memorial Day having come and gone, and all-star balloting in full swing, it is time again to take stock in the baseball season. We have some surprising trends and interesting leaders after two months gone by. We have also witnessed some history for good measure.

I already wrote a post about removing the human element from sports, so I'm not going to get into the bad call in the most recent perfect game attempt. But what is even more interesting, in my mind, is the fact that this would have made for three perfect games in the first two months of the season. Unreal. There have only been 20 perfect games thrown ever. Ever. If you count Galarraga's, that makes 21 and three in 2010 alone, and we haven't hit the second week of June yet. Now this is most certainly just sheer coincidence. But one-hitters are up from the pace of the past decade. Two-hitters and three-hitters are as well. Essentially, more good/great games are being pitched. The talent of the starting pitchers in baseball right now is immense. Perhaps the lack of steroids being taken by hitters is more immense. Either way, I'm loving it. I know most fans would rather watch a 9-8 game, but I always enjoy that masterpiece thrown by an ace. Also, I have Ubaldo Jimenez on my fantasy team, so there's that.

In other historic news, the great George Kenneth Griffey Junior announced his retirement mid-season. Griffey was and is my favorite baseball player. I remember him leaping walls and jacking bombs in Seattle very fondly. I also remember him scoring the winning run against the Yankees in the '95 playoffs. That memory is not as fond though. I won't go through all the stats here, because it's unnecessary and just as easy to look up. He's a hall-of-famer, as we all know. He is the 6th greatest center fielder of all time, which a'int too shabby considering the competition there. (The other five, inarguably, are: Mays, Cobb, Mantle, DiMaggio, and Speaker.) So without getting too nostalgic, and having everyone wear their baseball caps backwards in memoriam, I am just sad that he'll never play again, even though he stopped playing as The Kid about nine years ago. At least he passed Sammy Sosa in career home runs.

As for the 2010 season, the Rays still have the league's best record. The Yankees still have the second best record. The Orioles still have the worst record. (And you wonder why there's an east coast bias. Maybe it is because that's where all the news happens.) Speaking of, the Toronto Blue Jays remain one of the biggest surprises through two months of the season. Picked by many to finish last in the division, with good reason, this team is crushing the ball. They have 94 home runs; 17 more than any other team. And their best player in 2009, Adam Lind, is struggling in '10, to say the least. Part of their success should be contributed to one Jose Bautista. If you've never heard of him, join the club. The only reason I remember him as a bit player from years past, is because I have problems. His career high in home runs is 18. That's from this year. He has 18 home runs right now, in less than 200 at bats. His previous career high was just 16 homers in 400 at bats back in '06. Needless to say, a pace of 9 jacks a month might not continue through August if I had to guess. I don't see Jose Bautista joining the 50 home run club, but maybe that's just me. Other news out of the east has the Braves moving from last place to first place in under a month, and the mighty Phillies being in the bottom ten in the majors in runs scored.

The best record in the NL belongs to the San Diego Padres. Go ahead and read that again. Not surprisingly, they can't score any runs. But, thanks in part to that giant monstrosity of an outfield at Petco Park, they have the best pitching in the league. Jon Garland's ERA stands at 2.15 right now. That's a run and a half lower than any other year of his career where he's thrown more than 6 starts. Let's just say I would consider him a 'sell high' candidate in fantasy circles.

In other standings surprises, the Cincinnati Reds are 31-24. They haven't finished a season with a winning percentage that good since 1999. Hell, they haven't even finished with a winning record since 2000. The Oakland A's are also off to a nice start, two games over .500 currently. Throw in the Nationals hovering around .500 and many of the perceived bottom-dwellers are holding their own with a little more than 100 games remaining in the season.

As for the fun stuff, the individual player stats that just cannot be explained, we have a number of examples. Ubaldo Jimenez, mentioned earlier, may have already locked up the NL Cy Young Award after only 11 starts. His season ERA is under 1. So is his WHIP. He has a 10-1 record. In his only loss, he pitched 7 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits. He has not allowed more than 4 runs in any MONTH yet this season. Saying Ubaldo is this year's Zack Greinke might even be understating it.

In the yearly triple crown chase, both Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are top 3 in their league in each category. However, further cementing the old 'the NL sucks compared to the AL' argument, the top NINE hitters in the majors all come from the american league, led by Justin Morneau at a clip of .372. In fact, the top five in OPS are also all from the AL. The aforementioned Jose Bautista ranks fifth on that list, ahead of Albert Pujols. How fun.

Wrapping up the always entertaining stats watch is Stephen Drew. Counting 2010, this would be the fourth season of his five year career in which Drew has had more triples than stolen bases. Only one time has he ended a season with more stolen bases than triples. I find this extraordinary, and the only conclusion I can draw is that Stephen Drew is awful at reading a pitcher's delivery.

As for what can be expected the rest of the way in the 2010 MLB season, I'm not one for predictions per se, but Jose Bautista will not lead the league in home runs, Justin Morneau will not lead the league in batting, and the Padres will not finish with the NL's best record. How's that?