Is There Really Any Doubt?

As I watched Monday Night Football last night, and by the way, suck it Rexy, the reports came in that Jim Thome had hit 2 home runs to reach 600 in his career. He became only the 8th player in history to reach this milestone. However, as the game came to a close and SportsCenter opened with this historic event, I was utterly shocked at the fact that they were actually debating what this means for his Hall of Fame chances. The very idea that any player to join this elite club would not be on the fast track to a first ballot trip to the Hall, seems ludicrous. Right?

As I began my due diligence to research the numbers that would once and for all prove my opinion correct, a funny thing happened. I came to realize that Jim Thome WILL be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but not for the reason I had originally thought. Yes, 600 home runs is very significant, and his career numbers are solid. Match his stats up against the guy behind him on the home run list, Frank Robinson, and aside from the batting average, Thome’s stats are arguably better. Unfortunately, those numbers were much more relevant for Robinson because they put him among the top 5 players in the game in his era. This is reflected most clearly in the amount of All Star appearances and MVP votes that Robinson received. Thome was cursed with the fact that he played in a time where there were far more power hitters, like McGuire, Sosa, Palmiro, Bonds, and A-Rod. However, it’s this very curse that will get him a first ballot election to Cooperstown. The curse is, and will be forever known as, The Steroid Era.

The Baseball Writers have made it very clear that they will NEVER elect a suspected steroid user into the Hall of Fame. Players who would have otherwise been in on their first year of eligibility, are barely getting any votes at all, and the future does not look good for guys like Bonds and A-Rod. Then there’s Thome. A guy who is, by all accounts, a great guy, a gritty ballplayer, and a NON-USER. When you put the use of steroids in the conversation, Thome’s accomplishment becomes even more valid. First of all, Sosa wouldn’t even be a member of the 600+ club, which means Thome would be one of only 7 players to hit 600. In addition Bonds would probably have less than 700 home runs, which would increase the importance of this club. Therefore, making it virtually impossible for any writer to not grant immediate membership to the Hall. In a time when so many guys, from Bonds, to Brady Anderson, to Luis Gonzalez, were putting up huge power numbers, Thome just kept on putting up 30+ HR’s per year. During his career he had 5 seasons in the 30’s, 6 seasons in the 40’s, and one season in the 50’s. In comparison, Bonds had 6 seasons in the 30’s, 7 in the 40’s, and one in the ludicrous 70’s. That’s 1 more season in the 30’s and 1 more in the 40’s for Barry. Not exactly the blowout lead in numbers you would expect from Bonds, especially when you factor in the PED’s.

In the end, the voters would like nothing more than to vote a very good player, with very good numbers, into Cooperstown because he was a great guy, who worked hard to be the player he was, and didn’t take any shortcuts for personal gain. However, it will more likely be the first REAL chance the writers will get, to send a clear message to users that not only will we not vote you in, but we are going to fast track the guys who did it right. I can’t say that I blame them. Better luck next year, Barry.

I Love That Dirty Water

How does one even begin to describe the love they have for their hometown? The utter joy that is felt during the simplest of activities, and the absolute pain that is felt when you have to leave……..again. This is the dilemma that I deal with on days like today. Sitting at Logan airport, waiting to return to the city that I now call home. It’s painful.

When my family and I moved to Dallas in 2008, I had very little doubt that we would be there forever. Milder winters, no state tax and incredible housing prices. A better life for the future of our family. Or was it? While I find Dallas to be a lovely city, and not a place I dislike, what I have come to realize is that improved finances are merely a small portion of what, I feel, makes a better life for the future of my family. What about all of our friends and family? We have them in Dallas, but not nearly as many. What about the activities? We can do a lot of things in the Dallas area that we can do in the Boston area, but what happens when we want to go to the beach, or skiing, or camping or the Cape and Islands? NOTHING! Unless you want to drive for 4 hours to camp, or 5 for the beach, and 12 to get to the mountains. Like I said, NOTHING!!!

Then there’s the vibe, the feel, the intense passion that New Englanders have for everything. Their friends, their family, their food, their sports. My god, the sports. The idea of my children growing up as anything other than die hard Boston sports fans makes me sick to my stomach. I am keeping them on track so far, but once they hit school, its going to get much harder. Hold on, I have to go throw up.

Ok, I’m back. I tell people in Texas, all the time, that the real reason they all have guns is because they know they could never beat a guy from the northeast in a fight. New Englanders are tough. Real tough! It takes a special kind of person to suffer through the winters up here, although many of us complain the whole time. Even still, March comes, spring training begins, and the pure joy of spring envelops the region. That NEVER happens in Texas. Spring means that intense heat is not far away. How much does that suck? You cant even appreciate spring. You also can’t appreciate the holiday season at all. As an adult snow can be a pain in the butt, but as a child it is heaven. Making a snowman, or having a snowball fight, and then coming in the house, stiff as a board, with snot pouring out of your nose, to find a bowl of soup or some hot chocolate waiting for you. What about snow days? What is better than that? As a kid, its the best. Period!

So lastly, I will end this all with a few rapid fire Texas negatives that I have not covered. Mega churches, right wing conservatives, terrible drivers(you have no idea), 3 months of 100+ degree temps(dry heat my ass), Cowboy fans, and lastly, W, Glen Beck, and Casey Anthony. What more does a person have to endure? Hopefully, not much more. I’m already counting the days until this long Texas “vacation” comes to an end, and I can finally come home.

The Greatest?

Define “the greatest.” It isn’t easy. Is it strictly the guy with the best stats, and if it is, which stats are you using? Is it the guy with the most, or the better average? Does longevity trump pure skill? Ask any true football fan, who the greatest running back of all time is, and they will likely tell you someone other than Emmitt Smith. Why is that? I mean, he ran for more yards and touchdowns than any back in history. But wait, Barry Sanders played 75 less games than Emmitt, and Jim Brown played 33 less than Barry, and don’t even get me started on Gale Sayers. The fact is, “the greatest,” is in the eye of the beholder. Just ask a Cowboy fan.

This brings me to the topic of the day. Where does Randy Moss rank among “the greatest” wide receivers of all time? After doing a little research on the subject, I have come to realize, that unlike the running back debate, this one is a little clearer. This is for two reasons. First, there is far less debate about who “the greatest” of all time is, and secondly, because pretty much everyone in the debate played into their mid 30’s, which gives you a much larger sample of their careers. No early retirements, or 12 game seasons. Just the numbers.  After weeding through all of them, there is no denying that the only player who could be #2 is Randy Moss. He’s done more in less time than anyone NOT named Jerry Rice. Check the numbers yourself. There’s no debate, so stop hating because you don’t like him.

So, now the only question left is whether or not there is even an argument to be made between him and Jerry. This is where the debate takes a huge turn. The reason being that you have to now stop talking about the numbers and begin talking about the players. Jerry’s overall numbers are likely unattainable, but when you match up their 10 best years in the league Jerry had less than 9 yards per game more than Randy, and 1 touchdown more per year. Close, but most numbers are in Jerry’s favor. But do statistics, in any fashion, always tell the whole story? Much like the MVP voting in baseball, which pretty much goes to the guy with the best statistical season, instead of the guy who was the most valuable player to his team, I think the debate between these 2 players follows the same formula. Who really IS the greatest receiver? The guy who’s training regimen and constant dedication to the game, made him the best he COULD be, or the guy who seemingly glided through 13 seasons, even took a couple off, and is still the 2nd best of all time? Most fans in the world prefer the guy who gave it his all, which is why Jerry will likely be number 1 forever. I’m not saying that I don’t agree with that, I’m just saying that it’s all in the way you look at it. In this case, it’s not the most vs. the best average, or longevity vs. skill. It’s desire vs. retire. Sorry Randy, you’re the 2nd best receiver of all time, but damn, were you a thing of beauty to watch.

Follow The Leader

It hasn’t even been a week since the NFL owners and players worked out a deal to avoid missing games this season. Although the mad dash of signings and trades, in such a short span, has been exciting, it doesn’t change the fact that the exact same thing is about to play out in the NBA. Or is it?

The one thing, in my opinion, that made the NFL lockout different was the fact that the players really “had no significant options.” The superstars have plenty of money and could probably sit out the whole season, but there were a lot of guys that could not do that. This leads to only one obvious outcome, concessions. Interestingly, the players actually did alright in the deal, but it doesn’t change the fact that they “had no significant options.”

The NBA players, on the other hand, DO have options. Significant options, indeed. The popularity of basketball worldwide has provided the NBA with some of the best players in the Association. You need look no further than this years Finals MVP, Dirk Nowitzki. Throw into that mix guys like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Pau Gasol, and you realize that THE WORLD is playing basketball. In fact, they are playing pretty good basketball. More importantly, the world is willing to spend money to play better basketball. Ultimately, this is the players biggest bargaining chip and they need to use it.

So,  this is my plea to Kobe Bryant. Please stop posturing and go overseas to play basketball this season. You are still the best and most important player in the NBA, and a move like this would speak volumes. In addition, it would open the door to all the other stars who need a kick in the ass to do something they “claim”  they’re all considering. In the end, it would let the owners know that they can’t claim poor (which I don’t believe for a second) and think that the players will just cave in to “save ” the game. It would also help to improve the international game, which in turn, will improve the NBA in the future. C’mon, Kobe. If you ever wanted a Celtic fan to root for you, this is your chance. Hell, it’s a lockout, so you’re technically not a Laker right now anyway. 😉

Brawls and Long Balls

I never thought I would see the day where I would say that Major League Baseball could learn a thing from the NBA, let alone two. However, today is that day. I consider myself a huge baseball fan and a quasi traditionalist, which is to say, I don’t want TOO many changes to the game, just ones that truly benefit it. The following are two such examples.

As a Red Sox fan, who hates the Yankees, this may be blasphemy, but I believe the time has come to put an end to bench clearing brawls. They are completely ridiculous. Guys running onto the field from all corners of the building, all because someone got hit with a baseball. Inevitably, some jackass middle reliever, who ran 100 yards to get there, jumps into the pile, and throws a bomb on some guy he has an old beef with. This, of course goes unseen by the umpires but not the replay, and 2 days later, he’s suspended for 10 games. In addition to the aforementioned jackass, other players do stuff that DOES get them tossed from the game, and naturally the managers are gone too. More suspensions follow and in the end, the pitcher and the hitter never actually settle their dispute, so it’s all for nothing. Like I said, completely ridiculous.

So, this begs the question, “what do we do?” Here’s where the NBA rule applies perfectly. First: If you leave the dugout or bullpen, then you are automatically suspended for 25 games. This officially eliminates 39 of the 50 players in the game, 36 if the bases are loaded. Although, it’s unlikely anyone is getting hit intentionally with the bases loaded. Anyway, those guys have now been saved from themselves. No injuries, no suspensions. Just a momentary delay in the game. Second: If you are on the field and you involve yourself in any way with the pitcher or hitter, you’re suspended for 10 games. WOW. Look at this. We’ve narrowed all this drama down to 2 players. Now all you have to do is let the 4 umpires break up this fight, which will likely be easy, because even though the fight will draw a 5 game suspension, harming an umpire will get you 25 games, too. The other great part about this rule change is that it will actually reduce the amount of guys who get thrown at, as most pitchers know that they would likely have to knuckle up if the player charges the mound, because the umpires will NEVER get there faster than the batter. Let’s see Mr. Chamberlain hit Mr. Youkilis after this rule is put into effect!   Next subject.

The home run derby needs to adopt the same philosophy as the slam dunk contest. Let the young guys of the league do it, and let the established veterans off the hook. Just like the NBA, this would allow guys, that many people don’t know, the ability to get noticed and in turn, create more buzz. The NBA is great at promoting their young stars. Sometimes those players fail to live up to the billing, but at least they try. In 2007, the HR derby could have used all 1st and 2nd year players and had Ryan Braun, Chris Young, Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Hamilton, Dan Uggla, Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Willingham and Prince Fielder. However, Fielder was the only one that season that participated. This needs to be addressed, to help expose the young fan to the future stars.

Another reason this change should be made is a little more selfish. The numbers show that a large portion of the players who participate in the derby, see a decline in their stats in the second half. As of today, everyone (except Matt Kemp, with a better avg) who was in this years HR derby has a lower average AND slugging percentage, since the all star break. Last year, only Matt Holliday had a better slugging percentage in the 2nd half. In ’09, 3 players did, and in ’08 just 1. These are your veterans, that you need for the stretch run, and they are screwing up their swings, competing in this exhibition. This is the one part of the all star game that the fans don’t get to vote on, so why is MLB making the same poor choices they do?

The Day It All Begins


I think I always knew that this was inevitable. Sitting in front of my computer and typing away (I refuse to say blogging, except this once), about the thoughts and opinions I have on sports, and life. I truly have no real idea what direction I am going to go with these ramblings, but I hope in some way it will spark debate and maybe even sway someone’s opinion on a subject. That would be the ultimate compliment. For the time being, I will just finish this post by saying thank you for checking me out, and I hope I do well enough to keep you coming back.