Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Polls Show No Love for the "Old Schools"

Today, as I'm browsing through the college football standings, I noticed something that immediately jumped out at me--

Texas A&M is 3-0; Wisconsin is 4-0 and Auburn is 4-0. Three iconic programs undefeated and remarkably, none of them are ranked in either the AP Poll or the Coaches Poll.


What is going on?

I know they haven't played anyone meaningful yet, but I think their rich history should still count for something. And they are still members of 3 powerful conferences. I think the pollsters could have shown them a little love.

And I'm sure their strength of schedule component is much stronger than TCU, Cincinnati and Houston's (who are all in the top 15) put together.

Yes, I know they've been through some hard times in recent years but they are still world class programs and part of college football lore.

I mean, to me, Texas A&M is synonymous with college football. Every time I hear someone mention College Station or R.C. Slocum or the iconic Southwest Conference-- it reminds me of the good old days. I remember them days when the Aggies were always in the conversation.

Wisconsin was once a Big Ten powerhouse, winners of 3 Rose Bowls (1994, 1999, 2000) in recent times. The Badgers are still the team of Barry Alvarez, Alan Ameche and more recently, Ron Dayne.

And Auburn a once-SEC powerhouse had an undefeated season as recently as 2004. Who can forget the days of Bo Jackson (above) and Tracy Rocker.

So when I saw that all 3 are undefeated and unranked-- it blew me away.

My, oh my-- how times have changed.

Logo photos courtesy of sportslogos.net

Monday, September 28, 2009

Boise State In The BCS Championship Game?

The Boise State Broncos are ranked #5 in the AP Poll and in the USA Today Coaches Poll. My question is-- Why? Do the Broncos have a conceivable chance of playing for a national title?

If they end up 13-0, the math says they should if certain scenarios play out-- but somehow I get the feeling they won't, even if, the scenarios play out.

First off all, there are 3 SEC teams ranked ahead of them (#1 Florida, #3 Alabama and #4 LSU). Only 1 of those 3 will survive in the SEC, which is good for Boise State. Florida plays at LSU and LSU plays at Alabama. If LSU survives those two games-- then they're in business, but I highly doubt it. So once LSU gets knocked out, Boise State should creep up to #4.

Ok, lets continue--

Then there's the Big 12 showdown between #2 Texas and #8 Oklahoma. If Oklahoma beats Texas and Boise State continues winning, then the Broncos should move up to #3-- right?

Then #1 Florida and potentially #2 Alabama (or LSU) play the SEC championship game and one more gets knocked out. An unbeaten Boise State by now should move up to #2-- right?

Mathematically they should, but in my opinion, it ain't going to happen.

If Texas wins, obviously they'll remain #2, but if Oklahoma wins, I can see the Sooners leapfrogging Boise State even though the Broncos will still be unbeaten.

Even USC and Virginia Tech, if they continue winning will probably leapfrog Boise State.

This notion that a team from a lower-tier conference has a shot at a national championship, to me, is a fallacy. For teams who don't play in the power conferences (SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 10 and the Big East) a spot in the BCS Championship Game is just wishful thinking. Even the Big East has become a lower-tier conference. They have two teams (Cincinnati and South Florida) who are 4-0 and Cincinnati is only ranked #10 and South Florida isn't even ranked.

So I never quite understood why they even bother including teams (except of course for Notre Dame) outside the power conferences in the rankings. Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC should have a separate league and play for their own title.

I know it sounds cruel but it's a reality. With the strength of schedule component in the BCS formula, for a school from these lower conferences to play in the championship game would require a complete collapse of every school in the power 6. They may get 1 spot in a BCS Bowl Game-- but that's about it.

If Boise State goes undefeated and Oklahoma knocks Texas out of the #2 spot, technically they should play in the national title game against whoever comes out on top in the SEC. At least that's what you would assume by their #5 ranking-- but somehow I get the feeling they'll be leapfrogged by a couple of one loss teams.

So my question remains--why are they in the rankings in the first place?

Photos courtesy of the AP

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hurray! The Detroit Lions Win A Game!


After going 0-16 last season and starting 0-2 this season, the Detroit Lions, today, beat the Washington Redskins, 19-14. 'Bout time!

The long suffering is over as Detroit (1-2) snaps a 19 game losing streak, which I'm sure they were getting tired of hearing about.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, nervously held his head down as Washington was down to it's final snap. The agony must have been unbearable for him, the team and all the fans. I'm glad it's over for them.

Owner William Clay Ford put it best today, "We not only got the monkey off our back, we got King Kong off our back."

After the game, head coach Jim Schwartz did a noble thing by letting his team go out on the field to celebrate and shake hands with the loyal fans who have stood by their side during all the misery. That was cool.

So I say, let's give them a shoutout and I hope they're savoring the moment.

Congratulations, Detroit!

Photos courtesy of the AP

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Ever Happened To Denny McLain?

Most people who follow baseball would probably say, "That's a dumb question. Just look at his rap sheet."

Indeed, after his baseball career, the life of former Detroit Tigers pitcher, Denny McLain, has been a major train wreck. McLain has served jail time for drug trafficking, embezzlement, racketeering, mail fraud and conspiracy. And I'm talking about major jail time. McLain, in his criminal career, has been involved with some heavy duty underworld criminals.

So why am I asking for his whereabouts?

For starters, I'm not asking the question literally-- I'm asking it figuratively.


This morning I woke up in one of those gloomy nostalgic moods. As I usually do to cure the funk, I paid a visit to my old stomping grounds-- the campus of New York University. So I took a stroll around campus and then I sat on a bench in nearby Washington Square Park and reminisced about the good old days.

Somehow, I struck a conversation with an older couple sitting next to me and it just so happened that the lady attended NYU and was from the graduating class of 1968. They talked about the great times they had in the summer of '68 after her graduation.

It was after they left that McLain came to mind. All of us who love baseball history know what went down in the summer of '68.

So I wasn't thinking about McLain the mobster-- I was thinking about the pitcher, who put up these numbers in 1968:

W-L: 31-6; 1.96 ERA; 28 Complete Games; 336.0 Innings Pitched; 280 Strikeouts

That's the Denny McLain, I'm wondering about. What ever happened to him? Are we ever going to see another 30 game winner?

We can say what we want about McLain-- but he's the only 30 game winner in the modern era. In fact, with the exception of McLain (31 in 1968), Dizzy Dean (30 in 1934) and Lefty Grove (31 in 1931)-- every other 30 game winner was between 1876-1920.

So for McLain to win 30 games in 1968 was truly amazing. Modern pitchers just don't do those kinds of things.

For those who lived to see it, 1968 produced two of the greatest pitching performances in Major League history. Along with McLain's 31 wins-- that was the year Bob Gibson posted his astonishing, 1.12 ERA-- which to me is the most impressive number, of any kind, ever.

In 1993, Sports Illustrated came out with a special classic edition commemorating the 25th anniversary of the incredible pitching performances of McLain and Gibson.

With these two dominant pitchers it was no coincidence that the '68 season ended with the Detroit Tigers beating the St. Louis Cardinals (4-3) in the World Series.

But my question still remains-- will I ever see another Denny McLain?

Photos courtesy of SI.com
Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Zack Greinke: One Step Closer

Here in the east coast, the Zack Greinke chatter has been, "Yes, Greinke is great, but he's yet to face the Yankees or the Red Sox. Let's see how he fairs against either of those juggernauts."

In fact, during last night's Yankees-Angels game, Yankees broadcaster, Ken Singleton reiterated the point.

Well last night, Greinke put the chatter to rest. He shutdown the Boston Red Sox, rather easily. So much for the juggernaut. Any more questions?

Just for the sake of admiration, here's Greinke's pitching line from last night:

Greinke (W, 15-8) 6.0IP - 2H - 0ER - 3BB - 5K

That is correct--2 hits and 0 earned runs over 6 innings. One down--one to go.

The Kansas City Royals have a 3 game series coming up at Yankee Stadium--September 28-30. I checked KC's schedule and Greinke's next start is Sunday, September 27, against the Minnesota Twins. This means he will miss the Yankees series. Darn!

Maybe KC should bypass his Sunday start and have him pitch the opener on Monday. What an event that would be if Greinke can shut down the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Although the Minnesota game is also important because Greinke hasn't faced them this season either. And Minnesota is a division rival who's still in playoff contention. A win against them will further bolster his Cy Young chances.

If the voters need a stat to convince them that Greinke deserves the Cy Young Award, consider his numbers against the teams that were still in contention, as of yesterday-- the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels and the Boston Red Sox--

So far this season, he's made 10 starts against those 4 teams-- his record is only 5-3, but he's only allowed 6 earned runs in those 10 starts. In six of the 10 starts, he's allowed 0 earned runs. That's just amazing.

Oh and by the way-- with his gem against the Red Sox last night, he lowered his major league-leading ERA to a microscopic, 2.08. If that doesn't win you a Cy Young Award in the American League, then I don't know what will.

One final tidbit, Greinke was not fazed by the infamous "Sports Illustrated Jinx"-- maybe that should count for something.

Photos courtesy of SI.com
Stats courtesy of mlb.com

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Washington Stuns #3 USC: Not As Bad As It Sounds

Yesterday, the USC Trojans lost a heart breaker to the Washington Huskies, 16-13. Bad news for the Trojans' title hopes-- right? Maybe. Maybe not.

There's an old adage in college football-- if you're going to lose 1 game, lose it early.

College football is the only sport where 1 loss weighs differently, depending at which point in the season it happened. In other words, a late season loss is much more devastating than an early season loss. Early season losses get diluted as teams go on and put together winning streaks. Teams that are unbeaten late in the season and then suffer their first loss-- those losses are much more devastating.

So if the Trojans (2-1) are destined to go 11-1-- this early loss to Washington may be a blessing in disguise. This means they'll finish the season with a 9 game winning streak and if any of the unbeaten teams stumble late in the season-- you can be sure USC will leapfrog them in the rankings.

Just ask the Texas Longhorns--

Last season, Texas was 8-0 before suffering their first loss to Texas Tech. They went on to an 11-1 regular season. The Oklahoma Sooners , on the other hand, were 5-0 when they suffered their first loss to Texas. So when 8-0 Texas lost their first game, 7-1 Oklahoma, by winning their game, leapfrogged Texas in the rankings . At the end of the day, they were both 8-1, but Oklahoma had suffered it's only loss, 3 weeks earlier. It weighed much less than Texas' recent loss, so poor Texas ended up getting hosed.

To add salt to the wound, Oklahoma wound up edging Texas for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game and eventually in the BCS National Title game.

The cry in Texas was--"Why? We beat Oklahoma!"

And the folks in Texas were 100% right. The only reason why Texas got the short end of the stick was because Oklahoma suffered it's only loss before they did. Once again, early losses get diluted and late losses weigh a ton.

If all this sounds confusing--well, it is. The BCS formula is a mess.

So if the Trojans are destined to have an 11-1 season-- the best thing that happened to them was suffering their 1 loss now at (2-0) rather than later, at, lets say (8-0). With an 11-1 record, I can bet they'll be in the Top 3, at the end of the season .

The only way they'll be out of the national title game is if, there's a 1 loss team in the SEC and a 1 loss team in the Big 12. So all Trojans' fans need is for their team to run the table and they should be in the national title picture at season's end.

By then, this one loss won't weigh an ounce.

Photos courtesy of flickr.com

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Extra! Extra! Mariano Rivera Blows A Save!

Wow! In sports, you know someone is great when their failures are bigger events than their successes. When people glue themselves to their television, not so much to see them succeed, but to try and catch those rare moments when they don't. That's the case with New York Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera.

Here in New York, a save by Rivera has become an afterthought. A given, like they say in mathematics. So when he blows one, like he did last night-- it's big news.

Last night, the Yankees were leading the Seattle Mariners, 2-1, in the bottom of the ninth inning. In other words, Rivera time. And everyone has become so accustomed to Rivera's perfection that we just assume the game is over. Bring in Rivera to turn off the lights and everybody goes home. That's the mentality here in New York.

Rivera, as usual, struck out the first two batters he faced-- but then the unthinkable happened. The next batter, Mike Sweeney, on the very first pitch stroked a double to right. The next man to bat was none other than Ichiro Suzuki. It seems like Ichiro always finds a way to be in a potential dramatic situation. Personally, at the moment, I thought the worst that could happen, was-- Ichiro would slap a single, bringing in the tying run and Rivera's 36 consecutive save streak would end that way. Then Rivera would get the next batter and walk off the mound with a 2-2 tie. Judging by the type of hitter Ichiro is-- it was a fair assessment. But no. On the very first pitch, Ichiro drills a two-run home run, ending the game (3-2) and Rivera's streak.

Unbelievable! What are the odds of that happening. Two pitches, game over.

After the game, all Yankees manager Joe Girardi could say is, "It just shows you that he's human. When it happens you are surprised."

Rivera, as usual, was pretty hard on himself-- "Two pitches cost us the game. To do that is unacceptable."

Since 2002, Rivera has converted an eye-popping, 307 out of 335 save opportunities. That's a 92% clip. Prior to last night, he had converted 40 out of 41, so far this season. His only other blown save was to his arch nemesis, the Boston Red Sox. In 2008, he was 39 out of 40. The guy is just lights out.

Although the Rivera shocker got all the ink today, it's worth mentioning the brilliant performances by A.J. Burnett and Seattle's Felix Hernandez (r.). Burnett went seven strong innings allowing just one run and Hernandez (16-5) pitched a complete game, allowing 2 runs, 1 earned and lowering is ERA to a sparkling 2.45. If Hernandez goes on to win the Cy Young Award-- this is the game which put him over the top.

As for Rivera, my message to him is-- "Don't be so hard on yourself. That was only your third blown save in the past two seasons. Don't look back-- you're going to the playoffs and someday you'll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer."

Photos and stats courtesy of mlb.com

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Michigan-Notre Dame: How Times Have Changed

"Nobody puts baby in a corner." That was a famous line by the late Patrick Swayze, from the movie, Dirty Dancing. I was a big fan of Swayze, so his passing has been on my mind the last couple of days.

Today, the "baby in a corner" line came to mind, when I received the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. The cover featured, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and on the upper right hand corner (above) there was a small snippet which read: "Return of The Wolverines", featuring Michigan's freshman quarterback, Tate Forcier.

Anyway, the point is--

Last Saturday, the Michigan Wolverines won a thriller of a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 38-34. Forcier showed his toughness under pressure by throwing a game winning touchdown with 11 seconds left.

This is where the "baby in the corner" line comes in. Once upon a time, the Michigan-Notre Dame match-up was more than just a game-- it was an event. A game like Saturday's would have dominated the cover of--not just SI--but every major sports publication. And when I saw the corner snippet is all the game got, I asked myself, "what has happened to Michigan and Notre Dame?"

Both schools have really been major disappointments over the last 5 years or so. I mean, they once were the elites of the elites. Their yearly match-up, at times, was a bigger event than the national title game itself.

In other words, the Michigan-Notre Dame game used to be the "baby" of college football. So to see them play such a thriller on Saturday and then barely make the cover of SI, shows me how low the two programs have sunk in the elite chart.

Just for the sake of nostalgia, lets go down memory lane and see how Sports Illustrated used to cover the great rivalry:

September 22, 1986:

September 25, 1989:

September 24, 1990:

September 23, 1991:

Yes folks, those were the good old days and until Michigan and Notre Dame are once again, "forces to be reckoned with"-- I guess the "baby" of college football will remain in a corner.

Photos courtesy of SI.com

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ichiro Does It Again! This Time Breaks 108 Year Old Record

Yesterday, Seattle Mariners outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki collected his 200th hit, making 2009, the 9th consecutive season he has reached the lofty benchmark.

Ichiro had been tied with Hall of Famer, "Wee" Willie Keeler with 8 consecutive 200-hit seasons. Keeler did it from 1894-1901--108 years ago. Wow! It's worth repeating-- 108 years ago! Once again, Ichiro rubs elbows with the game's immortals.

Now, this is worth thinking about.

Ichiro is not only breaking records, he's breaking century old records. This is a record that generations of ball players have not been able to touch. Just the sound of it (9 consecutive 200-hit seasons) seems unreal.

Just to put this colossal achievement in perspective: In the history of the game-- 4 or more consecutive 200-hit seasons has been done only 11 times and 5+ consecutive seasons has been done only 6 times--

Ichiro - 9 - 2001-2009
Willie Keeler - 8 - 1894-1901
Wade Boggs (l.) - 7 - 1983-1989
Chuck Klein - 5 - 1929-1933
Charlie Gehringer - 5 - 1933-1937
Michael Young - 5 - 2003-2007

In the world of baseball, this is an achievement of biblical proportions.

New York Yankees DH and fellow countryman, Hideki Matsui called Ichiro's accomplishment, "a Herculean feat".

It truly is. Congratulations, Ichiro!

By the way, I was very impressed to see Michael Young (a.) on that list. He's quietly having a Hall of Fame career down there with the Texas Rangers.

Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Zack Greinke Should Win The Cy Young Award. Period!

If there's ever a year where conventional wisdom should get thrown out the window, when it comes to the Cy Young Award voting-- it's this year. Forget team record, forget wins and losses-- Kansas City Royals ace, Zack Greinke deserves to win the AL Cy Young Award.

Currently, Greinke has a 13-8 record, 216 strikeouts, and a very impressive, 2.19 ERA. But if we break down his 29 starts-- we can see just how incredible his dominance is. If Greinke pitched for a team like the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Angels, he can quite conceivably be 25-4.

So far Greinke has 8 losses and 8 no-decisions. Here's a breakdown of the earned runs he's allowed in those games:

8 losses - 1, 5, 4, 2, 3, 1, 6, 4

8 no-decisions - 2, 3, 3, 1, 2, 0, 0, 0

As we can see, he's allowed 3 runs or less in 4 of his 8 losses and even more amazingly, he's allowed 3 runs or less in all 8 of his no decisions. It's a real shame that such a great pitcher plays for such a scrubby team.

In August, Greinke had a 15-strikeout performance against the Cleveland Indians and he followed that up by pitching a one-hitter against the Seattle Mariners. Awesome!

The fans in Kansas City have Greinke's back--their frustration is palpable.

On Greinke's Facebook Fan Page, I've read comments like these from Royals fans:

1) "Zack Greinke is a Hall of Fame pitcher on a minor league club."
2) "The Royals stink, they don't deserve Zack Greinke."
3)"The Royals are doing everything in their power to deny Greinke the Cy Young Award."

And my favorite of them all--

4) "The Kansas City Royals, the mayor, everyone around here owes Greinke an apology. It's shameful what's happening here."

Earlier this year, Greinke made the cover of Sports Illustrated and they dubbed him the best pitcher in baseball. They might be right-- I mean, this kid is having a phenomenal year.

If I were voting for the Cy Young, I'd give it to him in a heartbeat. All the other pitchers, who are in contention, have a team to back them up.

In KC, Greinke is doing it all alone.

Photos courtesy of SI.com
Stats courtesy of MLB.com

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Derek Jeter Ties Lou Gehrig

Congratulations to Derek Jeter! Last night, Jeter tied the immortal Lou Gehrig for the most hits in New York Yankees history--2721. With 21 games remaining in the season, it's a no-brainer, he'll soon be alone atop the Yankees list.

By the time Jeter retires, he'll most likely hold every Yankee offensive record, with the exception of the power categories. Barring some unforeseen event, Jeter should be the Yankees all-time leader in games played, at-bats (already holds record), runs scored, hits, singles, doubles, stolen bases and strikeouts. Yes, even strikeouts. I guess if you hang around long enough, you accomplish the negative as well as the positive.

But 2721 hits is the Yankees number. We all knew it was just a matter of time before Jeter starts breaking all these Yankee records. What's even more interesting, however, is how close Jeter is to 2762.

It's unlikely he'll reach 2762 this year, but I think he'll be at least within 20 hits. I'd say he's good for another 20 or so hits this year.

Ok-- why 2762?

That's how many hits Pete Rose had after 14 full seasons. As we all know, Rose is the all-time hits leader-- and reaching his all-time number is no easy task. We're talking about 4256 career hits. I mean, that is just mind-boggling.

But Jeter has gone toe-to-toe with Rose (b.) after 14 seasons and he's still going strong. If he keeps his current pace he'll be in the 3700-3800 neighborhood by the time he's 40. Then it'll all depend on how long his skills and desire last after that. Even if he doesn't break the record, I think he'll at least join Rose and Ty Cobb (4189) in the unimaginable, 4000 hits club.

Again, it's a tall order-- but he's the only current player with enough years under is belt-- that has any realistic chance of catching Rose.

If Jeter doesn't do it-- chances are the next all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball is probably playing in little league somewhere.

Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com
Photos courtesy of mlb.com

Monday, September 7, 2009

The New York Mets: It's Been Hard To Watch

For the past 3 weeks, I've been wanting to write a post about the deflating, injury-plagued season that has decimated my beloved New York Mets. But every time I've sat down to begin writing, the disappointment has triggered an attack of writer's block.

To put it simply-- this has been a very sour season for Mets fans. We still can't figure out how or why these injuries have kept all of our star players on the disabled list for pretty much the entire year. Ok, we all understand teams go through injuries during the course of a long season-- but not to the entire heart of the lineup.

What's happened to the Mets this year is really creepy. I've never seen anything like it before.

But anyway--

Yesterday, I was sitting at home, reading the Sunday NY Daily News and I came across a clipping that really caught my eye. It was a quote made by Chicago Cubs broadcaster, Chip Carey.

Mr. Carey really "hit the nail on the head" with this comment:
This comment pretty much sums up the entire season. Mets fans everywhere are wondering the same thing, Chip.

Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ichiro Reaches 2000 Hits and Places His Name Next To Baseball Royalty

Today, Seattle Mariners outfielder, Ichiro Suzuki led off the game with a double, which was the 2000th hit of his career. In the process, Ichiro became the 2nd fastest player ever to 2000 hits.

He reached the milestone in 1402 games. Only the immortal Al Simmons reached the milestone quicker--1390 games. Ichiro bumped legendary St. Louis Browns 1st basemen, George Sisler to 3rd. place. Sisler got his 2000th hit in 1414 games.

Simmons (b.) and Sisler (l.)-- these are names we've heard before in recent times. Obviously they are both Hall of Famers and are considered baseball royalty. So if any player today gets mentioned in the same breath with these two greats--we can bet that they did something spectacular.

In 2004, when Ichiro set the single season hits record with 262-- it was Sisler's then-84 year old record of 257 that he broke. That was an amazing accomplishment-- Sisler had held the mark since 1920.

And last month, I wrote a post on Albert Pujols, who joined Simmons as the only players in history with 100 RBIs in their first nine seasons.

It's interesting that Ichiro and Pujols were the 2001 AL & NL Rookies of the Year and here they are nine years later being mentioned in the same breath with legends like Simmons and Sisler. I mean, these are astonishing achievements.

I think we all can agree, both Ichiro and Pujols are future Hall of Famers. Only twice in history have the Rookie of the Year duo gone on to the Hall of Fame-- the 1956 pair (Frank Robinson - NL and Luis Aparicio - AL) and 1967 (Tom Seaver - NL and Rod Carew - AL).

But before Ichiro and Pujols make the Hall of Fame, we should have a third pair-- the 1977 winners-- (Eddie Murray - AL and Andre Dawson - NL). Murray is already in the Hall of Fame and Dawson is an odds-on favorite to get enshrined in 2010.

Once Dawson gets in, Ichiro and Pujols will most likely be the fourth pair of Hall of Fame ROY duets. Now this is what I call-- a super exclusive club.

And stay tuned, the Ichiro-Pujols combo are not done yet-- soon they'll be reaching milestones held by other great immortals.

Photos courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame
Ichiro photo courtesy of MLB.com
Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Roy Halladay Pitches A Gem Against the Mighty Yankees

On Friday night, Toronto Blue Jays ace, Roy Halladay pitched a one-hitter against the explosive lineup of the New York Yankees. It was an impressive performance against the most dominant offense in all of baseball.

Halladay (14-8) only allowed a double in the 6th. inning. He walked 3 batters and struck out nine.

The lone hit was by little-known Ramiro Pena. With the potent line-up the Yankees have, this has to be the highlight of Pena's career.

Just so we can see how impressive Halladay's masterpiece was, here's where the Yankees stand in every major offensive category in all of baseball:

Runs Scored - 773 - 1st.
Hits - 1327 - 2nd. (1 behind the Los Angeles Angels)
Home Runs - 210 - 1st.
RBIs - 742 - 1st.
Bases on Balls - 561 - 1st.
Team Average - .281 - 2nd. (behind the Angels - .287)

The Yankees lead the major leagues in just about everything. And Halladay shut them down, at times making it look easy. Very, very impressive.

And remember, this is the same Halladay, the Blue Jays were shopping around before the trade deadline. I'm one of those who strongly feels, the Blue Jays should do everything possible to keep Halladay. He's the pride of baseball in Toronto--and all of Canada for that matter. His one-hitter against the mighty Yankees on Friday night has been the highlight of the Blue Jays season so far.

If the Blue Jays get rid of him, who are the fans going to cheer for? I understand the economics of baseball but I also believe that if the Blue Jays are going to be a factor in the near future it starts with Halladay.

So my message to Toronto's front office is, "break the damn piggy bank and build a team around him."

Just for the sake of admiration, here is Halladay's pitching line from Friday night:

Halladay (14-8) 9 1 0 0 3 9 0 2.98

One thing is certain, Halladay is a fan favorite and a thrill to watch. Hope the Blue Jays figure out a way to keep him.

Stats courtesy of MLB.com

Friday, September 4, 2009

Pedro Martinez Vs. Tim Lincecum

About 3 weeks ago, when Pedro Martinez made his debut for the Philadelphia Phillies, I wrote a post pointing out that he was debuting on the same pitching night as Tim Lincecum.

This was no coincidence. I knew that by Martinez debuting on Lincecum's night, there was an excellent chance the two may go head to head at some point this season, when the Phillies play the Giants.

That's exactly what we got last night. And I must say, neither one disappointed.

Martinez won the battle--but barely. The Phillies beat the Giants, 2-1, with both Martinez (3-0) and Lincecum (13-5) going 7 strong innings. They combined for 20 strikeouts and only 1 walk-- both displaying their dominance and impeccable control.

Martinez looked like his old self last night, matching Lincecum pitch by pitch.

I would say, the baton was officially passed from the aging ace to the new ace.

Last night was Lincecum's 85th career start. Here are his numbers compared to Martinez' first 85 starts:

Lincecum -- 37-15, 644 strikeouts, 450 hits, 2.88 ERA

Martinez -- 37-27, 522 strikeouts, 458 hits, 3.71 ERA

After the game Martinez would humbly say, "He reminds me of me--only twice as better."

I must say, I agree. Just like a young Martinez, with his flashy hair-style, quirky mannerism and dominating performances-- Lincecum is Pedro's air apparent.

Photos courtesy of Yahoo! Sports
Stats courtesy of ESPN

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Patrick Rafter: A One-Hit Wonder?

In the world of music, we hear the term "one-hit wonder" get thrown around a lot. As we all know, these are artists, whose claim to fame is, they've had one hit song and then disappeared into obscurity. Many artists have become iconic because of this uncanny distinction. The band Soft Cell with their one hit "Tainted Love" comes to mind. But anyway--

If we were to apply this to the world of tennis-- this honor, undoubtedly, belongs to the pony-tailed Australian extraordinaire, Patrick Rafter.

Rafter (a.), played a relatively short career on the ATP tour, from 1991-2001. His most prized accomplishment was winning back-to-back U.S. Open titles in 1997 and 1998. He also reached the Wimbledon finals in 2000 and 2001, falling short both times. So why is Rafter a one-hit wonder if he has two grand slam titles under his belt? Andy Roddick, for example, only has one (2003 U.S. Open) grand slam title and past greats like Michael Chang (1989 French Open) and Thomas Muster (1995 French Open), also have only one.

What makes Rafter a unique one-hit wonder, in my book is-- he's the only player in tennis history to hold the number one ranking for just one week. As we all know, in tennis, the #1 ranking is judged on a weekly basis. For example, Roger Federer (b.) has been #1 for a total of 246 weeks, including a record 237 straight weeks. Rafael Nadal (b.) has held the #1 ranking for 46 total weeks. The record, currently, belongs to Pete Sampras (b.), who during his illustrious career held the #1 ranking for 286 total weeks.

When Rafter won his first U.S. Open, John McEnroe-- who won 7 Grand Slams and held the #1 ranking for 170 total weeks-- called Rafter a "one-slam wonder." Of course, Rafter proved him wrong by winning a second U.S. Open the following year. What McEnroe didn't foresee, was Rafter's unique record of holding the #1 ranking for a total of one week.

Here are the players who have held the #1 ranking in the Open Era:

Player Weeks No. 1
Pete Sampras (USA) 286
Ivan Lendl (CZE) 270
Jimmy Connors (USA) 268
Roger Federer (SWI) 246
John McEnroe (USA) 170
Bjorn Borg(SWE) 109
Andre Agassi (USA) 100
Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) 80
Stefan Edberg (SWE) 72
Jim Courier (USA) 58
Rafael Nadal (ESP) 46
Gustavo Kuerten (BRA) 43
Ilie Nastase (ROM) 40
Mats Wilander (SWE) 20
Andy Roddick (USA) 13
Boris Becker (GER) 12
Marat Safin (RUS) 9
Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 8
John Newcombe (AUS) 8
Yevgeny Kafelnikov (RUS) 6
Thomas Muster (AUT) 6
Marcelo Rios (CHI) 6
Carlos Moya (ESP) 2
Patrick Rafter (AUS) 1

It's important to note that this phenomena usually occurs during a stretch of time when there are no clear dominant players. For example, 1998-1999 was the tail-end of Sampras' career and it wasn't until the end of '99 that Andre Agassi got his second wind and began dominating again.

This gave players like Rafter, Carlos Moya, Marcelo Rios and Yevgeny Kafelnikov time to exchange the #1 ranking. Once Agassi reemerged, he held it for 52 straight weeks. Then when Agassi cooled off, Marat Safin was able to hold it for a few weeks until Gustavo Kuerten became #1 and held it for a respectable 30 consecutive weeks.

But with the exception of Rafter, all those players were able to cling on to the top spot for more than one week.

It's almost like Rafter borrowed it just to see what it smelled like and then gave it right back.

But one thing I can say, Rafter was fun to watch and I'm sure he cherishes that lone week at the top as much as he does his 2 U.S. Open titles.

Stats courtesy of tenniscorner.net