Three Base Hits: The Triple, Miggy and Lance


Chief Wilson had 36 of them in 1912. Sam Crawford had 309 in his career. Triples, that is. The three base hit. Some would argue it’s the most exciting play in baseball.

Some would also argue that I’m not a good listener. Okay, maybe I’m not.  A childhood spent too close to the blare of classic rock music pulsating out of gigantic speakers is my go-to excuse when friends point out I’m not paying attention to things they say to me. The doctor I sought out on the topic seemed to think it was less a hearing issue and more of an interest issue.  Meaning he felt I tuned out when not interested. Fair enough — somehow I don’t think I’m the only one guilty of that offense.

So while all of this may be partially true, when it comes to feedback on the SportsAttic, I am listening intently and always trying to come up with ways to improve my posts. I’ve noted the feedback (most recently from SportsDaughter1, who is always both constructive and on target when she makes a suggestion) that for even the most engaged readers, 3000+ words a few times a week can be, shall we say, daunting.

Which brings me back to the triple. I tend to speak and write in threes.  Three examples to support a point. Three paragraphs between the opening statement and closing passage  in an essay. So how can I insert some “threes” into SportsAttic and offer the occasional respite to busy readers with so many different social media options at their fingertips?

Because I acknowledge that I tend to be wordy (if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you are likely agreeing with that last statement). While I remain steadfast in my intent to continue to fully flesh out most of my upcoming anchor topics to extreme levels of detail (minutiae?), I also want to introduce the occasional shorter entry into the mix, and so, with that goal in mind, I give you Three Base Hits.

Depending on the sporting season, Three Base Hits may become Three Yards And A Cloud of Dust or Three Point Plays, but the gist of it will be three quick points on the sport in question (my preference is to keep it to football, baseball and basketball, although it is quite tempting today to add in Three-Putt as I watch the U.S. Open and Shinnecock make grown men cry), with brevity the goal. In all honesty, I’m not sure I can do it, but it is worth the old college try. So here goes:


The Triple

I now return to Chief Wilson and Sam Crawford from an era when triples mattered. Awhile back I listed out some of the baseball records I consider to be unbreakable.  My bad for ignoring the triple, as my list had the potential to be much longer. Let’s begin by adding Chief Wilson’s (pictured at the top of the post) 36 triples back in 1912 to the list of the unbreakable baseball records. Right up there with Cy Young’s 511 wins.

At the risk of sounding like some old, traditionalist crank, the players today just don’t run hard enough from the crack of the bat to leg out lots of triples. Add to that the fact that homers garner the big contract nowadays, and we can quickly conclude that no one will ever even hit 25 triples again.  Ever.

Some stats to back that up: no modern major leaguer has hit as many as 25 triples in a season. In fact, the highest total since 1950 belongs to Curtis Granderson of all people, who hit 23 of them in 2007.  That’s only good enough for 22nd on the all-time list, by the way.

The next two modern players who pop up on the all-time triples in a season rankings are two who caught my attention for different reasons. Lance Johnson (a surprise, with 21 as a Met in 1996 — more to follow on that), and Willie Wilson (21 in 1985) are tied for 75th all-time. Johnson, a solid and unremarkable outfielder, I hadn’t thought about in years. Wilson was a star for the Royals, but always a B-lister after George Brett, Hal McRae, Big John Mayberry and others.

Johnson’s inclusion surprised me, as I would have guessed Jose Reyes held the Mets record for most triples in a single season (Jose’s best was 19 and as a quick aside, I don’t know that there’s ever been more excitement at Shea Stadium than when Reyes would line one in the alley and take off with a three-bagger on his mind — Hoooo-Zayyyy, JO-SE/JO-SE/JO-SE!).  Reyes is the Mets all-time triples leader (110 at last count), but Johnson in ’96 is the single season man.

Wilson’s presence among the all-timers didn’t surprise me, but it did jog loose a long ago memory. As a young kid I saw him single-handedly take apart Madison (NJ) High School to win the state championship for Summit (NJ) High — in football.  In fact, Wilson led Summit to back to back NJ state football titles in 1972 and 1973, and played both ways! What an athlete, and it is the raw natural athlete that accumulates lots of triples. Today’s players are too busy honing their trendy uppercut swing to think about the extra base when one of their bombs falls short of the seats.

Wilson is also the top modern era player in career triples with 147 (which only places him 55th all-time). The only almost-modern player above Wilson on the all-time triples chart is Roberto Clemente with 166 (tied for 27th all-time), and he played his last game in 1972. In other words, it is safe to say that Sam Crawford’s all-time total of 309 triples will never be broken. Ever.



Easily the saddest news from last week’s world of sports came when the MLB Network news  crawl at the bottom of my TV announced that Miguel Cabrera had torn his biceps tendon and was out for the season. Not only do I understand that to be an excruciatingly painful injury, with a long and uncertain recovery to follow, but at Cabrera’s age it could mean the end of a wonderful career is at hand. Miggy is 35, and while still a dangerous bat who would have been a terrific late-season pickup for a pennant contender, he has begun the inevitable slide toward the final curtain of what to me has been a Hall of Fame career.

This is bad news for the entire game of baseball, as Miggy is one of the MLB’s true good guys and fan ambassadors. For a period of time a few years back, I was fortunate enough to regularly sit in the second row of the special seats on the field behind home plate at the Coliseum in Oakland when the A’s were in town. From that “up close and personal” vantage point I got to see a lot of Miguel Cabrera, and he rarely disappointed.

For whatever reason, the Tigers were often the visiting team when I was at the game. An extremely cool feature of these field level seats was that the fans entered through the same corridor that the visiting team traveled between their clubhouse and dugout (I’m sure this was not a popular feature for visiting players, but super awesome for the fans). It allowed fans in this section to truly get a feel for the personalities of the guys wearing the jerseys on the field.

Before games, Miggy would always be out holding court and laughing with everyone — teammates, opponents, umpires, fans, photographers, grounds crew, you name it.  He would dish it out to the fans and take it with a laugh and a smile when the trash talk and barbs boomeranged back at him. He embodied the joy and innocence of our national pastime and made the fans feel like a part of things. He was as authentic and genuine as they come.

There was one particular time when he’d been joking and fake-arguing back and forth with a fan a few rows behind me about whether or not he’d get a hit that day. All in fun, with lots of gesturing and general hilarity, while he loosened up in the on deck circle. So of course Miggy effortlessly strokes the first pitch he sees on a rope into left field for a single.  As he rounded first base, he could barely contain himself, laughing and pointing at the fan in our section, in an obvious “I told you so” moment. We all laughed with him.  A moment shared with the greatest hitter in baseball back in the summer of 2013.

Fast forward to that fall. American League Division Series Game 5 — Tigers versus A’s in Oakland.  A’s rookie Sonny Gray was on the mound and matching zeros against Tigers ace Justin Verlander for the first three innings. It was tense on the field and in the crowd, with a classic elimination-game pitchers duel taking shape.

Miggy didn’t seem tense, though. He leaned against the rail in front of our seats as Gray began the 4th, doing the standard Miggy back and forth chatter, smile never leaving his face. Except this time a fan in the row behind us took it too far, with a personal insult that left all of us within earshot cringing.  Cabrera’s entire complexion changed as he scanned the crowd for the offending patron (for a terrifying moment I was concerned he thought I was the loud mouth, so I silently pointed my finger to the row behind me as I sunk low in my seat). He ID’d the loser in question and cast a cold blooded stare.

Then he turned his back on us and took the rest of his on deck swings in silence.  The first pitch he sees from Gray he launches — DEEP — into the left field seats. One run was all Verlander would need on this night.  The Tigers would move on and the A’s would go home. And those of us in the first three rows knew the real backstory.

As Cabrera crossed the plate after his blast and solemnly bumped fists with Victor Martinez, not once needing to cast a glance our way (his point had been made), my daughter leaned over to me and whispered, “Dad, I think I’m happy he just did that.” I whispered back, “Me too, Bear.  Me, too.” That night SportsDaughter2 became a Tigers fan (for the duration of the 2013 postseason, anyway) and Miguel Cabrera became my favorite player in MLB.

Heal up fast big man, and put up a strong 2019 so you can call it a career on your own terms.



I had to return to Lance Johnson, because in the offense-starved history of the New York Mets, it is quite possible that Lance Johnson authored the most statistically impressive campaign in franchise history. Better than Darryl, or Keith, or Kid or Mikey P. More than Reyes or Wright or Rusty. The problem for Lance was that it happened in 1996.

Kind of like that old philosophy class question about if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it did it make any noise? The ’96 Mets were an uninteresting, bad ball club.  They went 71-91, finished in 4th place under the stewardship of Dallas Green (most of the year — Bobby V. replaced him for the last 30 games or so) in that dark age we can all now refer to as “PP” (Pre-Piazza).

In front of a million and a half  fans (they have not drawn that small a home gate since), Lance Johnson hit .333 with those 21 triples, which set a Mets single-season record still standing today (and I say likely to last a looooong time). In addition to those headlines, he also did the following:

*227 hits — another franchise record — by far

*117 runs scored

*31 doubles

*9 HR’s and 69 RBI’s from the leadoff slot

*160 games played and 682 AB’s

My gosh — Lance Johnson? And yet it never gets mentioned. By anyone. What’s perhaps even more amazing is that Johnson was gone midway through the following season, traded to the Cubs while he was only hitting .309!

Take a bow, Lance, for producing the most prolific offensive season of any New York Met, any year, any era.  As Casey would say, you could look it up.

And yeah, this post ran longer than intended.  Oh well. Happy Father’s Day everyone!




The Glory of Shinnecock — Go Tiger?


I’m sorry, but who the heck are these guys and where did the PGA find them? Talk about central casting.  There’s a Ricky and a Rory. A Jordan and a Justin. And a Jason and a Dustin. Who’s a Johnson. I’m not entirely convinced they aren’t all the same guy.  Can’t we put an end to it by just referring to the whole lot as “Not Tiger?”

They are tall and lean and seem super bland to me.  I know they hit the ball a ton — 300 yards on the fly with silky smooth swings — and they’ve all got the requisite hot wives/girlfriends (one of them’s even Wayne’s Gretzky’s daughter, right?), too. But they are just so…darn…uninteresting.

For variety there’s the Irish one, I guess. The brogue is kind of cool and disarming at first, but don’t I also remember his ex-fiancee making fun of his diminutive stature back when they broke up? And doesn’t he seem to sulk a lot when things don’t go well (why I no longer play golf, I might add — things often didn’t go well for me)? And he’s supposed to be the coolest one of these clones, isn’t he?

I’ve heard my golf fanatic friends tell me how this is the golden age of golf.  Not buying it. Granted, I’m not a close follower of professional golf any longer, finally coming to terms (after a couple of decades of kidding myself while rarely breaking 100) with the fact that I was never going to be any good at the game. I will watch (superficially) this weekend, though, for a couple of reasons important only to me (which I believe is how most of us approach decisions pertaining to our weekend sports programming).


First, I love the golf course.  Shinnecock and I go all the way back to 2004, when the fates collided in such a way that somehow I became the local event host for clients of a major investment firm (who had paid top dollar for U.S. Open sponsorship rights). The firm had relocated me to Long Island less than a year earlier, and the Hamptons happened to be part of my region of responsibility, so that meant I was given the keys to the golfing kingdom for four days that June.

When I first received this news it seemed pretty cool to me (and to all the friends I immediately began bragging to). I even got to play a practice round (I shot 111) as they were grooming the course for the upcoming major, and I came away with bags, hats, shirts and golf balls all bearing the cool Indian head Shinnecock logo, along with that uber-cool U.S. Open insignia.

Lunch in the 100+-year-old clubhouse was included with my practice round, and it didn’t even matter that there was no air conditioning or that we played most of the morning in a sideways-rain downpour of biblical proportions. I lost at least a dozen balls in that monstrous fescue and had the time of my life doing it. All was good.

Until it was less good. What hadn’t been explained to me by my superiors was that my “hosting” responsibilities included having to turn away the daily requests for tickets coming  from seemingly every local client (with the exception of the elite few who had placed so much money at the firm — eff-you money was the expression, I believe — that they were able to strong-arm their way to free passes plus access to the ultra-exclusive hospitality tent — it was all about the hospitality tent).

Temperatures were expected to be approaching 100, with Long Island’s legendary humidity along for the ride, and in no time access to that corporate hospitality tent became something people were more than willing to throw a punch or two over. And I was the gatekeeper.

For those of you unfamiliar with the communication dynamics of those who inhabit the great nation of Long Island, let’s just say “direct” and “blunt” are understatements.  As the calendar turned to May and the Open was less than a month away, I was receiving no fewer than 10 client phone calls a day that usually went along the lines of the following:

Me: “Hello?”

Client: “Hey — gimme tickets or I’m gonna take all my money out of that lousy firm of yours.” 

Only Long Islanders were far more creative with their verbiage than to use the word “lousy.” Rarely did a call end with pleasantries and I developed a knack for letting all incoming calls go to voicemail until the storage space was used up, then deleting them all and beginning the process anew.

When tournament week arrived, the phone threats dissipated.  I made my way out east on Day 2, and it truly was a memorable viewing experience.  In addition to the god-awful heat and worse than expected gridlock (I foolishly opted to drive the 55 miles from my home in Lloyd Harbor to Southampton — those of you familiar with Long Island traffic are nodding your heads in sympathy right about now), what I remember most were the colorful array of main characters slugging it out against Shinnecock’s gorgeous backdrop.  All while thousands of golf fanatics rooted aggressively for their favorites and with even more fervor against everyone else.

To this day, the only golf name that resonates with my daughters beyond “Tiger” is “Easy.” Ernie “Big Easy” Els was one of the favorites heading into the ’04 Open, and for whatever reason, my girls, ages seven and four at the time, absolutely loved that nickname. He became their favorite golfer from the sight of the first ball in the air.

“How’s Easy doing?” and “Is Easy winning?” were daily questions from both girls, and there was legit disappointment in their eyes when I had to let them know that some guy named Retief had bagged Easy’s trophy (Big Ernie had found the final day out east anything but “easy,” dropping like a stone out of contention with a final day 80 for a ten-over). My girls didn’t seem to need that level of detail around Els’s final round collapse, but stats have always been important to me.

So when you compare then and now (and “then” really wasn’t that long ago), what happened? We need more Ernie’s and fewer Justin/Dustin’s if you ask me.  Els was big, with a bit of a belly and an occasional mean streak and always appeared a little unkempt.  Oh yeah, and he was eminently likable.  Then you had lanky Vijay Singh, chain smoking his way through his rounds, all the while keeping up a running banter with his caddy, opponents and the gallery. I still remember his laugh echoing in the air when some fan had hurled a particularly funny insult his way.

Tiger was there, of course, but fortunately never a factor that year, finishing in a tie for 17th. The real fun came on Sunday, as the crowd, growing increasingly inebriated, continually ignored the pleas from the marshalls for quiet, and relentlessly tried to hound Goosen into coughing up his lead. It seemed like the entire island wanted to see Phil Mickelson win his first U.S. Open. Alas, Goosen held on and Lefty picked up another second.

Yeah, we need more Ernie’s and Phil’s and Retief’s and Vijay’s, and fewer guys that appear as though they were hired to portray what a golfer is supposed to look like for some travel brochure.

Despite my curmudgeon-like disdain for today’s stars, I will be watching. Having the Open return to Shinnecock brings back a lot of fond memories from my time on The Island, and I am nothing if not a sucker for nostalgia of the sporting event variety.  But there’s a second reason, too (didn’t that sound a little like, “but wait, there’s more, I haven’t gotten to 3000 words yet?”).

For those of you who happened to read my post from a few weeks back, when I wandered into the Sports Book during a trip to Vegas, I have a betting interest that comes along with this tournament.  And it’s a betting interest I’m totally patting myself on the back for, I might add.

I believe I’ve created the perfect hedge for the 2018 U.S. Open. For starters, I’ve got money on Tiger Woods at 20-1. I have often noted my lack of affection for Mr. Woods, with the only two things I do like about him being the fact that he’s going bald and that he’s unlikely to break Nicklaus’s record for career majors. So then why put money on him, one might ask?

Because I couldn’t resist 20-1 odds. So much has been written and said by the pundits this year about Tiger’s valiant comeback that it seemed to me these odds were way out of whack.  Based on what I’ve read, he’s playing better, feeling healthy, had a couple of close calls leading up to the Masters, then disappointed everyone by not contending at Augusta.

I caught my 20-1 odds (now all the way back down to 14-1 last I saw) in the aftermath of his poor Masters performance, and there’s nothing us sports fans love more than the feeling that we’ve made a smart bet.  I had to jump on it, and I know it will make watching golf this weekend that much more interesting to me as a result. And worst case, I have that perfect hedge.

Because if it turns out I didn’t get it right, and Tiger’s an also ran over the next four days, I’m perfectly okay with that outcome.  Because I can’t stand Tiger (high five a kid while you’re walking to the next hole for chrissakes, would ya Tiger?). And a terrible showing will undoubtedly result in lots of pathetic closeups of Woods cursing and removing his cap in frustration (thus revealing his dramatically receding hairline). It will make for happy viewing for yours truly on Father’s Day.

Therein lies my perfect hedge.  If Tiger puts it together and wins his first major in 10 years, I benefit financially (which I’m not embarrassed to say I will shamelessly root for until Tiger falls out of it).  If he loses and I lose my bet, I’m still happy because I really don’t want him to win.  I’m guessing the tortured sports fans out there who are reading this understand exactly where I’m coming from.  Don’t you?

So hit ’em straight Ricky, Rory, Justin, Dustin, Jason, Justin and all the other PGA Tour cardboard cutouts that will be out taking their swings tomorrow. I’m guessing one of you “Not Tigers” comes out on top, but like all of my old friends on Long Island (and most middle aged guys across the country and the world) — I’ll be rooting for Phil.





Okay, I Give — Where’s He Going?


I know it’s been written to death, these last couple of days especially, but I figured it’s time to get in on the action.  We debated where The King would be playing next year at the lunch table in my office the morning of Game 4 (and footnote here — yes, I did call the sweep, but somehow managed to temper even that small victory by hedging and telling my office crew that day that I thought LeBron would figure out a way to eke out Game 4 win — oh well), as I imagine was being debated at lunch tables all over the globe this week.

A colleague who’s opinion I respect on matters of hoop was of the strong opinion that LeBron stays put in Cleveland. I found that interesting, since that is really the one option that I believe is off the table already for him as he begins weighing his potential future destinations. My co-worker cited LBJ’s family, community and a “why go through the hassle” mentality for his convictions.

I listened sort of patiently, but ultimately I believe he was way off base and looking at it through the wrong lens. I thought I’d put a more scientific diagnostic to this one and see where it came out. Yeah, right.  Like most things SportsAttic, what follows is grounded in personal bias, rooting interests and conjecture substantiated only in my own head.

My solid belief is there are only two things that will ultimately influence LeBron’s decision on where he next takes his talents (and yes, I believe it is safe to assume that this time there won’t be a television show to announce his decision) — his family and his legacy.  Perhaps not in the traditional sense, though. This an incredibly smart and thoughtful guy (he talks regularly with Warren Buffet for gosh sakes), so this will be about way more than who has the most cap space.

For this discussion, I’ve limited the cities under consideration to Cleveland, Philly, Los Angeles, Golden State (I know that’s not a city), Houston and yes, you guessed it, New York. I know that fans in San Antonio have somehow convinced themselves they have a shot here, but sorry Spurs fans, that slide you saw accelerating this year will escalate dramatically over the next few years and even the revered Pop won’t be able to stop it. However, I must admit I am curious to see if the San Antonio faithful will support a string of 30-something win squads over the next few years.  That’s where it’s heading in south Texas. You heard it here first.

I also am not including Miami, despite the presence of Pat Riley, LBJ’s history down there and the lack of a state tax (I’m sure a data point on Lebron’s white board of pros and cons, but not a decision mover). So with that as background, here we go:

Cleveland: Sorry folks, but you got your league-assisted title two years ago, so The King’s work is done. There is literally nothing in Cleveland that improves his brand at this point beyond what he’s already done with his mostly triumphant return home.  Sure, he’s home,  but I don’t think that will be as big a motivator for him as many argue.  Do his kids think of Cleveland as home?  They grew up in Miami. They fly in private jets all over the country and world on weekends and live quite the different life from those “fabric of the community” types that purchase the upper bowl tickets at The King’s home games. As early-teens, think about what may feel exciting to his kids?  Continuing to live in Ohio or perhaps exploring some of the more exciting locales their Dad has taken them to in his travels?  Their bags are already packed.

Philadelphia: This is a trendy choice currently, but again, I just don’t see it.  Right, right, they’ve got tremendous young talent, and if he were to take his talents to the city of Geno’s and Pat’s it is quite likely he’ll add at least a ring or two to his collection.  Again, I think there’s more to this than him finding the “ready to win now” destination. Let’s start with his kids again.  They are looking at the same list we all are.  They’ve seen Dad win multiple titles and the trip to the finals is an annual rite of passage in their eyes. So doing it one more time, even if the likelihood of victory seems high, can’t be that exciting to them when they compare Philadelphia to the other destinations on their board.  And as for The King’s legacy?  As indestructible as he comes across, he also strikes me as a guy who’s becoming more and more aware of the wear and tear wreaking havoc on his body.  He’s got two, maybe three, more years of carrying a squad that’s truly his to glory. Sorry, but Philly simply doesn’t fit.  And as for positioning his kids for future glory and himself for exciting opportunities post-NBA career, it doesn’t check that box either.

Golden State: Please no. I’m less objective here, and I believe I can safely speak for every NBA fan (outside of Dubs Nation, that is) from Adam Silver all the way to my teenage daughters when I say that no one wants this. As far as legacy and family, this one does come super close.  Those investment opportunities hatched in Silicon Valley that only become available to the super rich will surely entice The King, as they most certainly did with KD two Julys ago. And it’s California, which will resonate in a cool way with his kids (who I’m also guessing secretly love the Warriors, despite/because of what they do to Dad every June). If Durant hadn’t shocked the world two years ago and already gone down this path this one might have some legs. Fortunately for all of us, Durant formed the Super Team with expected championship results delivered. I can’t see LBJ following a path already blazed by arguably his closest competitor for “Best Player in the NBA” status today.  I’m calling this a thought that has to be considered (along the lines of a second dessert), but ultimately he’ll find better fits in other places.

Houston: Sorry Houston folk, but he’s only going to an A-list city. And no matter how hard and loud you argue that Houston is, in fact, on that list, I’m telling you that those of us outside Houston (especially your neighbors in Dallas) laugh at that contention. I know, there’s the Chris Paul friendship, but I sense that LeBron may be one of those guys who has lots of friends but no friends (don’t we all know one guy like that?). At least not in the league.  I also have to wonder how LeBron felt about CP3 sitting out Game 6 and Game 7 when that title he supposedly so desperately desires was within reach. Somebody needs to show Mr. Paul a tape of Willis Reed limping onto the Garden floor back in 1970 (with Wilt Chamberlain waiting for him no less!) and how that inspired his teammates to win a Game 7 nobody gave them a shot at.  Paul’s leg hurt? Okayyyyy… And yes, we have that “no state tax” dynamic here, but as previously stated, that could be a tie breaker, but this one isn’t close to a tie.  Legacy and family?  I’m sure it’s a nice place to live, but I also doubt the kids are clamoring to fire up the jet for a weekend trip to Houston, right?  Legacy opportunities?  Oil and gas I suppose?  Yeah, this one’s not happening.

New York: There’s so much I could futilely attempt to build a case around here, which is what makes it so damn sad to have to admit this is nothing more than a pipe dream. I mean, c’mon, coming to New York and reviving this franchise and perhaps deliver them it’s first title since 1973?  Even the league would whole heartedly endorse that storyline.  Family?  Yes, it’s not sunny 365 a year, but it is New York and hard to imagine that his kids couldn’t get behind this one enthusiastically in a matter of minutes.  Legacy?  Beyond the chance to bring a title back to the best basketball city in the world, the business opportunities would be abundant.  This is the best legacy story going.  But there’s a problem.  He Who Will Not Be Named still owns the Knicks.  The NBA is a small world, almost like an exclusive club. Close relationships, no secrets as to the good and bad of cities and franchises.  No one of relevance goes to the Knicks under this ownership.  Carmelo certainly wasn’t the guy to try and overcome these impossible odds, and look at how he left town, broken and ridiculed by many in the know.  I wish, I wish, as I’d find a way to put aside my personal distaste for The King to wave a blue and orange towel all the way to the finals (with a seven-game conference finals victory over the Celtics along the way? Hell yeah!). Not happening though — make him sell, Adam Silver.  Isn’t there some “good of the game” clause that can be invoked? Pretty please? Next…

Los Angeles: Ding, ding. This one seems pre-ordained to me, especially when you consider the points above. He’s already got a home out there.  I’m guessing the kids like SoCal just a little bit?  Entertainment center, beaches, beautiful people, music.  Legacy anyone?  Another proud franchise fallen on hard times recently, but with a core that shows signs of life.  And a good draft pick on the way. Add LBJ to the mix and they contend with one more quality player added between now and training camp (Paul George anyone?).  And post-career opportunities?  Hollywood beckons, LeBron. He’s actually not bad on screen, and his brand could expand broadly into film and fashion.  Think that’s not appealing to him? Yes, I’m only really talking about the Lakers here.  The Clips have an owner that could probably make a compelling case to him and would be a conduit into the world of the elite wealthy, but there’s no history with the Clippers.  And arguably a worse roster.  Nope, it’s the Lakers.  Plain and simple.  His kids will cheer and start packing tomorrow.  The ego lift of thinking about the opportunities that the L.A. platform will deliver to him along with the lifelong legacy of being the latest connecting dot in the Lakers championship history will be incredibly compelling.  And the team would surely be his. They aren’t a “just add water” contender, but will be with his iron will and relentless drive leading the way, taking the talented youngsters around him to new levels.

Put it in the books.  LeBron the Laker.  Coming soon.  I’m already thinking about who I root for when they take on the Dubs in next year’s Western Conference Finals.




Time to Ditch the Subway Series


I needed to get this out there before the interleague bloodbath that is Mets versus Yanks begins tonight. It’s time to put a stop to this gimmicky nonsense.  And I swear this isn’t some Roberto Duran-esque “no mas” utterance from a beleaguered Mets fan, but rather a legitimate request to whoever it is that runs baseball these days (that guy Bud who ignored steroids all those years is gone now, isn’t he? Did he have a replacement?). And my plea is only in part driven by the fact that the Mets are now 20 games below .500 in this travesty over the past 22 years (has it really been that long?).

And yeah, if I’m a betting man (and you’ve all seen up close that I am not, at least, a skilled one), I’d have to take a guess that it will be 23 games under for my Metropolitans by this Sunday night. Then again, as Chris Berman always used to tell us “that’s why they play the games!” But this is more about an idea who’s time has come and gone.  More than stale, this interleague stuff now has that nasty blue-green mold all over it, like the loaf of bread in the crisper you forgot about months back.

This is also certainly not just a Mets-Yankees issue either, as theirs is one of the few interleague battles that is actually a legit grudge match and matters at least a little bit. I mean, if you are chomping at the bit for the Rays and Padres to square off, I will nod and stand down accordingly, but somehow I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of you out there.

Taking a step back in an attempt to insert logic and context into this seemingly emotion-fueled argument, I am admittedly a traditionalist when it comes to our National Pastime. I don’t like the DH.  I abhor what the steroid era did to the sanctity of the record books and numerical milestones I grew up memorizing (fact check — how many of you immediately know what 714 and 755 refer to, but couldn’t come up with Barry Bonds’s final HR total without the help of Google?).

I want a World Series where the combatants haven’t faced each other, or even common opponents, over the course of a 162 game season.  It adds mystery and intrigue to the Fall Classic. It also makes for a better All Star game. Want to spice that one up, stop interviewing Bryce Harper in between fly balls and letting some idiot pose for a selfie with the home plate ump, and try putting a little distance and enmity between the two sides.  Again, get rid of the gimmicks.

Quick All Star Game aside and props to my pal Night Man down somewhere outside of Dallas for predicting that sometime soon we’ll witness an All Star Game where Jose Altuve is manning second base while riding a unicycle.  Don’t laugh too hard — it could be on a white board at the league office as we speak…

So enough already.  Interleague play has run it’s course.  No one cares or sees the novelty anymore.  I caught an Indians-Reds game year before last in Cleveland and there was no one, repeat no one, who was approaching the Reds with the hatred I used to routinely witness when I would make my annual pilgrimage to either the Bronx or Queens for  a Subway Series game. I’ve never seen the Dodgers take on the Angels, but I doubt those L.A.  fans show up with anger in their hearts either.

Sure, I was on board big time when this idea first rolled out.  As much of a traditionalist as I am, I’m also a huge sucker for a big sporting event.  And the subway series, even today, is a big event in the NY tri-state area.

In fact, just last night I read an awesome article, superbly researched and written by the NY Post’s Mark Davidoff, recounting one of the greatest moments in subway series history, when Korean lefty Dae-Sung Koo (in his second MLB at bat, no less) doubled off Randy Johnson and came around to score on a Jose Reyes bunt.  It was freaking amazing and somehow I had totally forgotten about it.  If I was better technologically, this is where I’d provide a link to Davidoff’s story, but you’ll have to find it yourself.  It’s worth looking up if you are a NY baseball fan.

There have been many more priceless moments.  Lots of them.  Even for those of us on the short end of this 66-46 Yankees romp.


Perhaps no moment is greater than that night in May of 1997 when Dave Mlicki (yup, the Dave Mlicki, he of the lifetime 66-80 record that included a stellar 8-12 for the Mets in ’97) shut out the Yankees 7-0. Indelible in my personal panorama of all time great sporting moments is me, along with about 5000 of my closest Met-fan friends, chanting “LET’S GO METS” at the top of our lungs for the final two innings or so at the old Yankee Stadium.  The home crowd had en masse skulked off into the night, pennant waving tails between their retreating legs, and for that one delicious moment we owned the House That Ruth Built.

And an oh by the way moment — the fact that Dave Mlicki is the first name that comes to mind when I think of Subway Series celebrations of years past says all you really ever need to know about what it’s like being a Mets fan.

This series always was for the fans, though.  What was so cool about those environments was seeing Yankee and Met fans arriving together, ruthless and coarse in their trash talk to one another, but always over a lot of laughs and even more beer.

And the fights.  Every year.  In the parking lot and in the stands. Pre-game and post-game.

One year my pal James’s buddy Leo (a Yankee fan, of course) broke out the magic word (“dickhead” if you are wondering) in inciting a small Yankee stadium near-riot against some unfortunate Mets fan who happened to be sitting in Leo’s seat (the unsuspecting guy was only off by a row, and with his girlfriend, no less). In Leo’s defense, the discussion over who belonged where had caused Leo to miss the game’s first pitch (any baseball fan understands the enormity of the first pitch, but c’mon Leo, in front of his girlfriend?).


Or the year my buddy Patrick had enough of the drunken, anti-Mets chants (to the tune of Camptown Races) — “Darryl takes it ** *** ***, DOO-DAH, DOO-DAH” — following a particularly brutal beatdown of our Mets by the soon to be 1998 World Champion, record-setting Yankees in The Bronx.

In a classic “hold my beer” moment, Patrick looks at me and says “that’s enough, I know how to shut these guys up (only he used a different term than “guys”).”

We were somewhat haphazardly making our way through the always dark and disgusting Yankee Stadium parking lot in search of our car (an annual challenge following Subway Series contests that typically involved consuming dozens of beers in a five hour or so time period).  I knew what was coming and looked around to see if there were any police in the vicinity to protect us.  Or at least a path for me to turn tail and run when the inevitable reaction followed. So he began.

“You know what the three greatest moments of my life were?” he shouted to everyone, but no one in particular, as heads turned our way, with volume escalating with his every word. I did know, of course, having witnessed this bit before, but wasn’t joining in on this one.


That was the night I learned how challenging it is to sprint across a parking lot, hurdling unspeakable puddles of god-knows-what, as beer bottles whistled by my head, all the while being cursed out by a bunch of irate, equally inebriated Yankees fans.  Couldn’t Patrick have just said there was no doubt in his mind that Carlton Fisk was the superior catcher?  Would have had the same result, but that is Mets-Yankees parking lot life in the late-’90’s for you.  Uncensored and no holds barred.

But really, it’s run it’s course. Kind of like astroturf did and Finlay’s mustache idea. Cool initially, even fun for awhile, but ultimately less interesting and eventually counter-productive to what the game is about.

So let’s do away with it.

For Mets and Yankees fans in search of in-season bragging rights I do offer a solution.  How about bringing back the Mayor’s Trophy Game? You could replicate it in those cities where a real rivalry exists. Dodgers-Angels. O’s-Expos (I mean, Nationals — congrats, Caps fans, by the way — and you are still welcome). Cubs-White Sox, maybe a couple of others I’m forgetting at the moment?

Remember those Mayor’s Trophy games?  I sure do.  Went once as a kid, and I still remember Ralph Houk coming out to argue — vehemently — a bad call at first.  Way to go Ralphie — there was no such thing as an exhibition game to the excitable Yankees skipper.  He was pissed and playing to win, as it should be.  And I remember his beet red face to this day.  Just like I remember that the Yankees won that night and Charlie Spikes homered for the Bombers. And even though my Mets ended up on the wrong end of the final score, it was simply an awesome night.

In another aside, I concluded that Charlie Spikes was destined to be the next great Yankee outfielder after witnessing his power display that night. I was wrong, but he still contributed greatly to the powerhouse Yankees teams of the second half of the ’70s. Remember how?  Yup, he was part of the trade following the ’72 season that brought Graig Nettles to the Bronx.

So if you want to maintain the rivalry, ditch interleague play altogether, add another night to the All Star break and put in place a “next gen” rivalry series like those old Mayor’s Trophy games, across MLB.

Have it feature the top prospects of these teams taking on one another and create some excitement for the future. Let the ticket sales and concessions go to some chosen charity important to the local community, and at the same time preserve the identities of the respective leagues and the desired unfamiliarity that will add to the allure of both the All Star Game and World Series.

And then us Mets and Yankees fans can go back to rooting for the day when our teams meet in the real Subway Series. The only one that should matter. Only next time Benitez strikes out Paul O’Neil and we win Game 1, leading to a four game sweep, rather than that horrific outcome that rewarded all you over-indulged Yankees fans back in 2000, and further twisted the torture knife for us Mets fans (run it out Timo Perez, for chrissakes, run it out!!). Not that it still bothers me, or anything.

Who knows, maybe deGrom pitches a gem tonight, Judge and Stanton set a record for most strikeouts combined by teammates in a MLB tilt, and the chant of “Let’s Go Mets” will echo into the night.  I hope so, and ya gotta believe, right? And then let’s call it off for good.






Three Things I Wonder on a Sunday Morning

Sundays are often the best sports days of the week.  Today we’ve got a full baseball slate, the conclusion to an important golf tournament (so I’m told), plus Game 2 of Warriors-Cavaliers.  So as I get ready for my second cup of coffee and finish up my morning workout before the temperatures here move into the 90’s, I needed to air out a few things on my sports mind.

  1. Are we witnessing the worst bullpen in Mets history right now?  Major League Baseball history maybe?  MLB History is probably bigger than my intended quick blog post can handle right now, so I’ll stick with the Mets.  My frame of reference for watching Mets baseball doesn’t make it all the way back to the Casey Stengel days, so I’ve got to stick with what I know.  For me, that means how does this pen compare to the Skip Lockwood/Neil Allen perennial last place, post-Seaver bullpen days of the late-’70’s? The fact that I even have to pause here before continuing is my answer.  The term “dumpster fire” keeps getting tossed around when it comes to the Mets 2018 bullpen.  I like that term.  However, I don’t think that does it justice.  How about “dumpster fire during a garbage strike going on two months long, where the dumpster is outside the loading dock where liver-flavored baby food is produced?” And poor Jacob deGrom, while we’re on the subject of disastrous pens.  I almost want to see him traded to spare him any more pain.  He’s in a tie game in the 7th, approaching his 13th strikeout and he has to know there’s literally no way he’s getting anything better than another no decision.  The fact that we kept it close into the 14th is small solace, as every Mets fan stupid enough to keep tuned in (yeah, like me) just knew there was no chance we would score another run. So Buddy Baumann (what??? who???) comes in to put us out of misery in the 14th.  Good night.


2. Why does it make me happy to see Tiger Woods losing his hair?  I’m not sure, but it does.  I saw Jack Nicklaus being interviewed late last night, and he has more hair (and he’s gotta be pushing 80, right?) than Tiger does today.  And while I’m on the subject, would it really kill Tiger to slap hands with a kid or two when he’s walking from one hole to the next?  C’mon.  You are a middle of the pack tour player these days.  Granted, one with the second most majors ever (and it also makes me happy typing “second most”), but make a kid’s day for gosh sakes. And oh by the way, his receding hairline and disgraceful attitude doesn’t mean I won’t still be rooting for him to win the U.S. Open in a couple of weeks.  That’s what one wager on a business trip to Vegas will do to influence my support…

3. What should we expect from J.R. Smith today? Beware Dubs fans.  I’m still sticking to my prediction of a Warriors sweep (also not great news for Golden State fans, but what the heck?), but if the Cavs get off the mat today and even the series going back to Cleveland they need someone, anyone, to give LeBron some help. The most likely guy is J.R. As much as I can’t stand the guy, he’s really dangerous heading into this afternoon’s matchup.  First, he doesn’t have a conscience, so J.R. probably cares less about how Game 1 ended than any of the rest of us.  And second, because he’s notoriously streaky and unpredictable he may just end up sticking it to the entire Bay Area, who have been shamelessly ridiculing him for the past two days.  If he unleashes one of those 8 for 10 from three-point land nights, it could be enough to swing things Cleveland’s way.  I’m not saying it will happen, and I certainly don’t want it to happen, but it absolutely could happen.  Expect the unexpected when dealing with Mr. Smith.  I’m looking forward to finding out later today.  And one last “while we’re at it” — I can’t help but wonder if Steve Kerr, who has an awesome sense of big picture humor, will acknowledge my incessant emails imploring him to matchup Swaggy P on J.R. tonight. A knucklehead showdown of  extreme epic proportion sits at Kerr’s fingertips!  Just for a few minutes in the second or third quarter, Steve?  C’mon coach, just for the fun of it. I could actually lose consciousness over the delicious prospect of who to scream at through my TV more.  And the potential for pie in the face-style humor and something so absurd it becomes memorable will be off the charts! Let them have at it — pretty please.  A boy’s gotta have dreams, right?

Enjoy your Sunday everyone!



First Kobe, now J.R. — the NBA, it’s FAN-tastic!


NBA Christmas came early for me this week. If someone had told me a week ago that the absolute highlights of my sports fan week would be delivered to me by Kobe Bryant and J.R. Smith, I would have looked at them as if they had ten heads.  And therein is the wonder of the world of sports.  You simply never know what’s going to happen next, but whatever it may be, chances are it’s going to be pretty darn cool. Talk about a box of chocolates!

My 11 hour flight home was scheduled to land last night at 6:30 p.m. Oakland time, or roughly a half hour after the tipoff of Game 1. In planning ahead I optimistically felt I could make it home in time for the second half of the game (an exciting prospect, since I’d witnessed no live basketball in nearly two weeks).

After the obligatory extra half hour on the plane while the boys of Norwegian Air tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to connect the jet bridge to our aircraft’s door, followed by  absurdly long lines at customs and baggage retrieval, the second half viewing dream was dead. I got in the car with 10 minutes to go in the 4th quarter of what appeared to be a close game. For reasons I won’t bother to bore anyone with, I was left to follow the game on my Yahoo!Sports app, as the radio was out and I had no other connect.

Any of you familiar with the trials of following live sporting events on a phone app know this is a less than ideal circumstance. We took my exit off the freeway with about a minute to go in regulation, and I see LeBron has just scored to put the Cavs up two with .51 seconds left.  Then my next update came with .36 seconds remaining, when I see Durant has been hit with a charging call.  I’m assuming game over at this point, with the Cavs stealing the home court edge behind another superhuman LeBron effort.

Not so fast. While I was retrieving my bags out of the trunk and racing into my house to turn on the final few seconds of the game, that charge call was reversed (I was momentarily disappointed not to be able to see LeBron’s “whine in disbelief” face over that reversal — like I said, I’d been gone quite awhile and it’s the simple pleasures you miss most), and instead of Cavs ball up two, KD had gone to the line and hit two free throws to tie things.

The ensuing 30 seconds or so had apparently resulted in a lot of action. As I finally sat down with the remote in my hand, George Hill was at the free throw line, Cavs down 1, with 4.7 seconds left.

This is where J.R. Smith warmly welcomed me home from my long journey. Let it be noted here that I’m not a J.R. Smith fan, placing him somewhere in that rarified air occupied by good ole Swaggy P on my personal starting five of losers, malcontents and coach killers.

So as I sat there thinking about the percentage likelihood of the Dubs being able to take it coast to coast in 4.7 seconds to win the game (not at all out of the question, by the way), Hill badly bricks the second free throw and Smith rebounds. He then inexplicably begins dribbling  away from the hoop, deciding against putting up a shot or passing to the best player on the planet, wide open and loudly imploring him to share the ball.

Far too late, J.R. swings a desperate pass to a teammate in the corner, but the clock expires and we get bonus basketball (plus several priceless shots of LBJ in complete agony, howling at J.R. as the burning embers of a wasted 50+ point night waft into the air at Oracle Arena).

I mean absolutely awesome, right? Did Smith think they were up a point at the time of Hill’s miss (J.R. swears that wasn’t the case, although I don’t believe him)? Did he think he could dribble out and reset the offense all in 4.7 seconds (not J.R.’s skillset, even on his best day with a full 24)?  Even more remarkable — here’s a guy that has never met a shot he didn’t like, yet decided against either a short baby-hook in the lane immediately after pulling down the rebound, or a contested jump shot once he took the ball out past the three-point line.

I suppose we’ll never know what he was thinking (if there was any thinking involved), but it made for great theatre, with the two protagonists (LBJ and J.R.) providing me one of those timeless moments to think back upon and smile about for the rest of my sports fan life.  Yes, it was that good.

And did any of us doubt what was to follow in the OT?  The looks on the Warriors faces as they walked off, still very much alive, at the end of regulation reminded me of a college kid behind the wheel of his convertible, open beer in hand, going 95 past a state trooper, when the trooper elects not to turn on the red and blue lights and pull out and follow.  A total reprieve.  The Cavs were toast for the OT (and yes, probably the series — I’m calling sweep right now). The overjoyed giggling and squealing of Dubs fans across the Bay Area is still audible this morning.

Here’s my real issue, though.  While J.R. is rightly being vilified this morning by his teammates, the entire city of Cleveland, King James and the SportsAttic, why does George Hill seem to be skating by with a free pass?


I don’t know much about George Hill.  He seems a perfectly nice man.  A capable point guard on middle of the pack teams until the trade that landed him in Cleveland earlier this year. He didn’t ask to go to Cleveland. For all I know, he may not have been excited about it at all, given the heightened spotlight and expectations that accompanied the deal. And man did he wilt in a big spot last night.

He’s a point guard. A starting NBA point guard in the most important moment in his entire NBA career to date.  And in a classic case of that moment being way too big, he badly short-armed that second free throw.

This is a career 80 percent free throw shooter we’re talking about, who shot 78.6% from the stripe this year. The first one is supposed to be the hard one in these two-shot situations, but it was the second one that barely reached iron. In fact, he missed it so badly that it created J.R.’s rebound opportunity, as literally no one on the floor expected the odd carom that resulted from such a miserable attempt.

If Hill had done what all 18,000 yellow-t-shirt-clad fans in the arena expected him to do at that moment, and sunk the shot to put Cleveland up one, what would have happened next?

Maybe Steph Curry would have casually drained a 40-foot three to turn the Bay Area faithful into one delirious puddle of hysteria. Or maybe Clay would have hit one of those effortless jumpers of his from the corner as time expired. Or maybe KD would have taken the inbounds pass and drained one from the top of the key like he’s done so many times before.  Maybe.

But we’ll never know, and now J.R. will be fitted with an all-time set of goat horns for blowing LeBron’s last chance at a title in Cleveland. And maybe The King’s last title chance anywhere, depending on how things go for him after donning the purple and gold of the Lakers this fall.

What a game. Amazing finish. Thank you J.R., for this wonderful and indelible memory.  Thank you LeBron, for that delightful facial expression that combined fury and WTF so perfectly, and thank you George Hill, for making it all possible with one of the worst misses in NBA Finals history (that nobody is choosing to talk about the morning after).

Sweep anyone?

Thank you, Kobe Bryant


There’s a first for everything, I suppose, and this is truly a first for me.  Kobe’s been on my sports fan radar since the early-’90’s and not until I woke up this morning did I ever come close to feeling the need to thank him for anything.

Yet there it was, first on the Sports Illustrated Instagram page, and soon followed by ESPN’s IG page and many others:

“Don’t debate what can’t be definitively won by anyone.” That one sentence amidst his tweet supposedly paying homage to LeBron and Michael (while shamelessly inserting himself into the GOAT discussion) totally made my morning.

Okay, can we just start with the fact that Kobe’s a clown? He’s actually a clown with an extreme lack of self-awareness. I’m sure his ludicrous tweet may have been prompted by several sycophants in his inner circle whispering in his ear that he’s part of the “greatest” discussion, but COME ON! On my scorecard I can make a case for him not even making the Top 10.

Previously I’ve debated whether LeBron has passed Michael on my list as the Greatest NBA-er of All-Time, and I’m still grappling with that one.  It’s a legitimate question at this point, although I must admit to being taken aback when Sir Charles put LBJ 6th.

But when I ponder the topic of Greatest Basketball Player Ever, Kobe Bryant — doesn’t…even…come…up.  The three centers do for sure.  Wilt, Kareem and Russell. Oscar Robertson does.  I can even make a strong argument that Magic and Larry precede Kobe on the list (they certainly did more for the game and the league than Kobe ever did).

That puts him 9th already, and that’s without me even working hard at justifying who else might belong ahead of him. Elgin? Elvin Hayes (hah, that one would really piss Kobe off, but take a look at the Big E’s stats if you have a minute)?  Stockton or Malone? Jerry “The Logo” West? Even Havlicek (I practically spit on my keyboard typing that one, but to me it’s really not all that far fetched) warrants a mention in the same breath. And what about Shaq? Kobe was merely Robin to his Batman on those first three title winners in L.A. that cemented Big Chief Triangle’s legacy.

Sure, Kobe will point to his five titles (as a matter of fact, he already did that in his ridiculously self-promoting, missing the limelight, adult in need of attention tweet), but c’mon again!  As noted above, for his first three rings he was barely above a role player riding Shaq’s coattails (Shaq was head and shoulders the best player in the league for those three seasons), so Kobe really just earned two as a leading man.  Great yes, but not enough to dignify his self-proclaimed contention for GOAT.

And besides, if it’s number of titles that define the GOAT, then how about Derek Fisher?  He won five, too, yet I haven’t seen Fish inserting himself into the GOAT discussion this morning.  But maybe Fish is living more comfortably in the relative anonymity of retirement (after having elbow-dropped my Knicks into their latest state of disfunction) than Kobe is.

Or what about Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry?  Horry won seven rings! Where’s his tweet?  Robert Horry — clearly the greatest — stop the debate right there!

So thank you again, Kobe, for providing me inspiration on a Monday morning.  Now you can return to that over-promoted ESPN pay-per-view channel that nobody watches where you break down game tape for up and coming AAU ballers.  We’ll look forward to further gauging the level of your over-inflated sense of self as the finals progress.


Sorry, but I can’t resist.  I’m not on twitter, but if I were, I would definitely be compelled, following my proud reread and edit of today’s blog post, to put to rest the debate, once and for all, pertaining to the GOAT discussion around us literary icons who reside at the pinnacle of the world of the written word. My totally sincere and objective tweet would read something like the following:

“We can read one without tearing down the other. I love those two guys, and without their influence I wouldn’t so frequently find myself in the midst of this argument. Don’t debate what can’t be definitively won by anyone. Those dudes are dead anyway, so let’s just give them their props, too, and move on.”  

Kobe Bryant — in contention for Top 20 of the all-time greatest NBA-ers — take a bow.

Now back to the NBA playoffs (and the Isle of Me). Last night’s Cavs-Celts Game 7 tipped off at 2:30 a.m. Belgium time. I rolled over this morning and immediately reached for my phone hoping that my powers of prognostication had been restored by a resounding Celtics home victory at Boston Garden.  I was disappointed, but not all that surprised, to see on the Yahoo Sports app that somehow LeBron had found a way to advance to yet another Finals. The momentary ego jolt of another wrong SportsAttic call was quickly replaced by an extreme case of deja vu.


Back in the ’70’s it seemed like the Knicks and the Baltimore Bullets faced off every year in the playoffs.  Fortunately for young me, with the exception of 1971 (when the Bullets somehow came into MSG and won a Game 7 to advance to the Finals, and an extreme ass-kicking that awaited them from the Kareem/Oscar Bucks), the Knicks always seemed to get the better of these matchups.

In those days I was rarely allowed to stay up late enough to witness the game’s conclusion, so one of my parents would write the final score on a slip of paper and leave it under my pillow. This was a delightful routine, particularly in the championship season of 1973 (much less so in ’74 when the hated Celtics put an end to the Knicks “three Finals appearances in four years” run), when every day seemed to start with the sun shining a little brighter following another Knicks win over big bad Wes Unseld and the boys from Baltimore.

Whether it’s an iPhone or a once-folded slip of paper, there’s something to be said for a world where the first thing a kid (even a 50-something one) wants to know upon waking up in the morning is the score of the big game from the night before.  The world of sports — keeping it simple, keeping it real.

Obviously the true cause of this morning’s negative outcome was my own self-induced dose of bad karma.  First of all, my selecting the Celtics to win anything immediately set the NBA Gods to conspiring against me. Second, compounding that foolishness by betting against LeBron in a big game when there weren’t huge stars on the other side to counteract him was simply stupidity on my part (the Dirk Nowitzki-led Mavs back in 2011 did somehow buck that trend — but who saw that one coming?).  Yup, just plain stupid and I admit it.

Now I’m stuck with the Cavs back again on one side of the finals, with a total conundrum facing me in terms of who survives out west. Should Houston salvage a little bit of my prediction pride and hold on at home and advance to the Finals, I’ll feel slightly good about having picked them (only “slightly good” because I waffled like a sugar-infused middle schooler on this pick).

The problem is, I’m totally uninterested in seeing a Rockets-Cavs final.  I don’t care for either James Harden or CP3, as both strike me as cry babies who buckle when things get tight (Harden passively, Paul usually in a fit of poor sportsmanship). But my disinterest is mostly because I see LeBron leading another victory parade should Cleveland face the Rockets, which I’m not sure I can stomach leading into the inevitable “where will the King land” free agency storyline. Too much LeBron already and I see no one on the Rockets roster capable of defending him or even keeping the series close.

On the other side of that conundrum coin, a Warriors win in Houston tonight provides me with a much more desirable finals matchup. Also an easier rooting scenario, where I can jump (with considerable trepidation) onto the local Dubs bandwagon and cheer hard against LeBron. And I’ll be doing so with a high likelihood that the Warriors take him down in four or five games. But doing so will extract a cost. The expense being a further  acceleration of the sinking of my personal prediction ship, which has been taking on water for weeks now (yes, you are still welcome Caps fans).

Factoring in all of these critical data points I’m going to have to take a deep breath and root on the Warriors tonight.  As painful as it will be being on the wrong side of another postseason prediction, there will always be another big sporting event out there for me to gaze into my crystal ball, but this is it for the 2018 NBA playoffs and I just can’t stomach seeing The King as the last man standing.

Besides I still have Swaggy P to root against, or for, depending on how you view it.  I’m currently handicapping the “Swaggy P Poison” index thusly:

*Nick “Swaggy P” Young sees the floor for fewer than five minutes — Dubs win big.

*Swaggy exceeds five (mostly garbage time) minutes, but doesn’t exceed 10 — Warriors in a close one.

*Young sees meaningful minutes (something on the order of either team within 10 in the 4th quarter with Swaggy P on the floor) — look for the Rockets posing for celebratory selfies in caps and t-shirts postgame.

Could Steve Kerr really not see the danger of having this guy anywhere in the arena for a Game 7 on the road?  He’s got to.  Here’s betting on a DNP-Coach’s Decision for Swaggy P tonight (actually 3:00 a.m. Belgium time tomorrow morning), with Kerr further cementing his legacy as one of the most perceptive coaches in NBA history (and please, one last time, I humbly appeal to the NBA Gods — do NOT put Swaggy P in a Knicks uniform in 2018-19).

A few final notes across the sports spectrum:

*Hey Mets fans — is Sandy Alderson secretly bummed he signed Jose Bautista now that Hanley Ramirez is available? Seems like signing Hanley would create even higher hopes among the Mets faithful with an even greater likelihood of him crashing and burning. Just sayin’.

*Is it too soon for me to hate Gleyber Torres?  Kid’s hitting like .550 and homers every game.  Oh yeah, decent to above-average glove and doesn’t act like a horse’s ass.  Man I can’t stand the Yankees organization.  Wasn’t Aaron Judge enough? Back to back years with new pinstripe phenoms, both possessing Monument Park potential?  And I only waited 20 years for Jeter and Rivera to go away.

*More Mets fan pain. Wasn’t Amed Rosario supposed to be the next Francisco Lindor?  Why can’t we ever get awesome, young position players out of our farm system?  Who’s this kid at Double-A for us that’s hitting bombs and plays first base? I can’t remember his name, but I’m certain he’ll change the trajectory of our franchise. Right? Like Ike Davis did.  And Lucas Duda…

*The Mets went from having eight viable starting pitchers at the beginning of Spring Training to being unsure who starts the second game of today’s double-header.  And it’s still May, folks. Talk about the present day “Spahn and Sain and pray for Rain.”  Can anyone say “Jake and Thor and pray for a compete game?” Yeah, I know it doesn’t rhyme, but our pen is atrocious. Plus we are the Mets.  No rhymes.

*Any Mariners fans out there?  They’ve won three straight since I wrote off their chances for success this year.  The SportsAttic may have just won you guys the pennant.

Happy Memorial Day everybody!

Mailbag and Assorted Notes

First of all, a hearty thanks to the Rockets for nudging one of my predictions toward legitimacy with their win last night. I still expect the Dubs to take this one the distance, but Houston prevailing in a close Game 7 remains my call.

It’s been going on a couple of months since I started up SportsAttic, so I thought this might be an opportune time to address some of the comments and feedback you’ve been kind enough to provide me. Since the reality is that there are only a handful of  comments, I figured I’d mix in a few top of mind observations of my own to balance things out.


*The Mets recent signing of Jose Bautista brings to mind their cursed history of signing power, right-handed bats way past their prime.  I can’t decide whether Bautista reminds me more of George Foster at the end or Ellis Valentine (we traded Jeff Reardon for him! Arrgghh…) from Day 1.  Either way, it’s an unpleasant vision and I don’t see Bautista making it past the Fourth of July as a Met. Is there such a thing as a Georgellis Fostentine?


*Rich B. in North Jersey reminded me of two WWWF greats of the past, when he brought up that the champion that emerged from the scrum of challengers to succeed Bruno Sammartino as champion was Bob Backlund.  And bonus for his pulling deep from the well one of the great names in WWWF history — S.D. (Special Delivery) Jones, Rich’s personal fave back in the day.  Those deep, semi-obscure pulls are always the best pulls.

*And Ron R. from D.C. expressed mild disappointment over my “dissing” of Max Scherzer in favor of Justin Verlander when reviewing the top right-handed starters of the past several years. I agree that was a super tough call, but as good as Mad Max is, take a look at Verlander’s 2018 so far — the guy is only 6-2 with a 1.08 ERA.  How the heck has he even lost those two games this year? And even more inexplicable to me is how the Tigers didn’t win a World Series with both of those guys at the top of their rotation and Miggy Cabrera anchoring a strong lineup — all during their prime?  Just don’t get it. We’ll give Scherzer 1-A on the list, but I stand by Verlander at the top.

*On the topic of current hardball events, it is great seeing Mike Brantley raking again.  He’s hitting .330 and tracking for 100+ RBI’s even with the Indians continuing to scuffle around .500.  I still don’t see how the Tribe doesn’t win at least 95 in that awful AL Central, but they better get rolling soon, and it appears that roster may need some help.

*Speaking of getting help, are the Dodgers mailing in 2018 already? Maybe they think they can rest on their laurels in 2018, get everyone healthy and go for it again next year?  Do they really think they can take a year off because of the success the franchise has had in recent years, and that L.A. fans will be cool with that?  I sure hope not, as that division seems up for grabs and there still seems like the most talent at Chavez Ravine.

*Dennis the Dodgers fan up in Eugene, OR recently pointed out to me via text that his boys are only 5 1/2 out.  We must remind Dennis that currently that earns them 4th place in the mediocre NL West, and that the Giants are getting Bumgarner back soon.  Can the Giants, flush with over the hill talent, actually be contenders in that division this year?  I don’t think so — even finishing .500 still seems like an enormous stretch to me. Look for everyone who wears that intertwined SF except Madison (and Posey — they can’t ever trade Buster) being available come July.

*Dennis also pointed out a relevant example I neglected to include in my post from the other day on the dearth of present day Heavyweights.  I stated that many of today’s potential heavyweights are off playing in the NFL and Dennis reminded me that not just “many” have chosen that route, but specifically one, Ken Norton, Jr., passed on the chance to follow in his dad’s footsteps in the ring, opting instead for an NFL career putting hits on running backs instead. Find me an interesting heavyweight — please!

*One of the more surprising starts in baseball this year is the Mariners out of the gates at 29-20.  No way they keep it up with Robby (friend of Melky, A-Rod and Biogenesis) Cano on the suspension list.  I’m totally writing them off and throwing my hat in the ring for the Angels bandwagon in the AL West.  That lineup (Trout, Ohtani, Pujols) and story lines (Ohtani again) are just so cool (at least there’s one interesting baseball currently in Southern California), but they need to  move now on pitching.

*I see two left-handers that should be on the market now or in the near future. Sean Manaea of the A’s and Blake Snell of the Rays. Teams with postseason aspirations should not sleep on these guys until the July trade deadline. I’m a huge buyer of Snell but more cautious on Manaea.  I know Manaea threw the no-no at the Sawx this year, but to me he’s average at best, and yes a lefty, so once the A’s fall out of it someone will overpay for him — just warning the Angels not to bite.  Go after Snell now.  He’s somehow 5-3 with 3.07 ERA for a putrid Rays team, and his stuff is Number 2 Starter good, especially for a team desperate for starting pitching like the Halos.

*And another warning to all the other buyers out there — don’t go after Matt Harvey.  I applaud the Reds heartily for what they are currently doing with the Opaque Knight.  It totally has the feel of a Private Equity firm buying a broken company, fixing it up with short-term corporate bandaids in hopes of finding a flush with cash buyer that will overpay big-time without looking too carefully under the hood (did I mix enough metaphors there?). Harvey, Manaea and Snell will all be wearing different jerseys by the 1st of August (and Cole Hamels, too — anywhere but the Bronx, please.), and I look for Snell to return big results this year and down the road for whoever lands him, while Manaea disappoints (hopefully in pinstripes) and Harvey totally shits the bed (yes, I’m still pissed about throwing money away on his first Reds start while in Vegas a couple of weeks ago).

*From Monica D. in Cannes came this addition to the Sweet Sounds of Sports post — the crack and hiss of a new can of tennis balls being opened.  That’s my girl — thanks SportsDaughterBTC (Behind The Camera)!  There’s also a SportsDaughterFTC (Front of The Camera), but she’s not a follower (yet, I’m working on it).

*And for Jeanne M. in South Jersey (for those of you with no New Jersey reference point, North Jersey and South Jersey are absolutely different states, kind of like the Dakotas), I applaud your honesty in admitting you are a LeBron fan, but stick to football.  You remain one of the more knowledgeable New York Football Giants fans I know to this day, and I am particularly proud that you haven’t let all those Eagles fans dim your enthusiasm over the years. But a LeBron fan?  In a Philly market? Hmmmm.

*We are fast approaching the “Times 3” baseball stat projection milepost of the season.  This is the last meaningful stat marker prior to midyear, and a good one, given we now have a real sample size to work with.  Multiplying statistics “Times 3” at the 54-game mark will highlight trends, many of which are totally unsustainable.  Like Kevin Pillar on track for 55 doubles, or Ozzie Albies annualized at 42 HR’s, or Charlie Morton on track to go 21-0 this year.  Have at it stat-heads, we are almost there. Yup, I’ve got way too much time on my hands when on airplanes (or trains as was the case this morning).


*Don G. in Central Jersey (not a state, similar to Central Dakota) adds Giancarlo Stanton to those current MLB stars heading for Hall of Fame numbers.  Since Don is a diehard Mets fan raised of good blue and orange stock I won’t hold this one against him, but also won’t dignify with a response.  I’ll simply go on record saying that I am hoping Stanton’s statistical trajectory over the next few years resembles the end of Don Mattingly’s career (and yes, I am also rooting for Giancarlo to lead the Junior Circuit in strikeouts this year).

*And thank you Ernie H. from D.C. (are you still in D.C. Ernie, or have you fled south for year-round golf?) for forwarding me an article from the Boston Globe by Dan Shaughnessy.  This article smacked so epically of “homer-ism” that I was nearly apoplectic by the time I finished reading it.  If I was better with technology I’d provide a link here, but Dan Shaughnessy and his shameless shamrock-waving prose doesn’t warrant such inclusion.  Suffice it to say that Shaughnessy channels his inner Red Auerbach (guy’s been dead how long now and I still despise him?) in a poorly disguised rah-rah homage to Ainge, Stevens and all things 2018 Celtics.  As I replied to Ernie, it almost made me root for LeBron to pull this thing out in 7.  Almost.  My call of Celts advancing at home in 7 stands, though.

*While on the topic of the NBA, did anyone else notice that Swaggy P got in last night’s game for a grand total of one minute?  And yes, apparently that was one minute too many for Steve Kerr and the Warriors.  In fact, it was just enough to pollute the Dubs outcome and place the champs’ backs firmly against the wall.  Betting Mr. Young doesn’t see the floor at all in Game 6 (unless it’s a blowout — Swaggy P lives for meaningless points in blowouts), and definitely rides pine for 48 in Game 7.  Careful, Mr. Kerr, careful.  He’s a poison…






Sorry, but I just don’t know anymore.  I’m disoriented from an aggressive travel schedule  across multiple time zones with too little sleep, and it’s totally thrown me off my game with respect to the world of sports. Maybe I can work that into an excuse to wash away the run of poor predictions I currently find myself in the midst of?

I woke up in London this morning with an idea for a blog post that would discuss the two NBA Conference Finals, each knotted two games apiece, with one final attempt at rescuing myself from my dismal record on recent prognostications.  I even went so far as to remind myself to write it up quickly and get it out there before the Boston-Cleveland matchup tipped off. Then I checked my phone to see what the start time would be in over here only to find out that the Cavs-Celtics Game 5 had just ended, with the Celts maintaining their strong home-court advantage yet again. So much for that idea.

A quick glance further down the screen of my Yahoo Sports app also informed me that the Washington Capitals (who I’ve left for dead multiple times this postseason in previous posts — yes, you’re still welcome Caps fans) have now advanced to the finals against the Golden Knights of Las Vegas (interesting since in my slightly delirious head I also had that game taking place tonight).  Since I’m not a hockey enthusiast, I had actually rooted for Tampa Bay to advance, not just to send home the Caps and their playoff-victory-starved fans once again, but also to make the Stanley Cup Finals even less compelling from my personal vantage point.

I say “personal vantage point” only because I do recognize that what Vegas is doing in advancing to the finals in their inaugural season is nothing short of remarkable (however, it seems to me that also needs to serve as something as an indictment of hockey’s inefficient playoffs,  doesn’t it?). So pitting the Golden Knights against one of the more uninspiring sports cities out there would dampen the enthusiasm for the Cup (sorry Tampa Bay, but you really are a pretty poor sports town).   Never mind, as I’m really not qualified to opine on the NHL beyond what I’ve already done and the Lightning are now sitting home and the Caps are still skating.  Figures.

Okay, but I can’t help it — don’t you think that Vegas has to have at least a hint of “happy to be here” going on now as the Stanley Cup Finals begins?  That has to be a huge plus for the Caps, methinks.  Of course, the way my prognostications have been going of late, that thought alone could put the whammy on the Caps’ season once and for all.  Stay tuned to see the true power of going the opposite way with your wagers when I’ve come out strong predicting an outcome.  Caps in 5. No doubt about it.

Back to the NBA and the curse of Swaggy P.

Yeah, I’m switching course yet again and now running with the Rockets.  I had them to reach the finals at the beginning of the playoffs, thinking that their home court advantage, coupled with this recurring feeling that the injuries and drop-off in character on the Dubs side would have a lasting effect, would be enough to send a new Western Conference representative to the final round this year.  Then I (like everyone else) witnessed the Warriors Game 1 dissection of the Rockets and their overly simplistic offensive system and decided the Dubs were simply too much for any team out there and went with Warriors in 5. Not so fast.

I returned once more to my imaginary bookmaking window (can you say “never throw good money after bad?”), this time choosing to revert back to my original line of thinking.  So I’m going with Rockets in 7, but feeling justified in my latest waffle since I am already on record pointing out that if things were to go bad for Golden State the inevitable organizational autopsy should begin with Nick “Swaggy P” Young.

I just don’t like the guy. I don’t like his game and especially his nickname (which somehow I am convinced is his own concoction, not unlike when George Costanza tried to anoint himself “T-Bone” on that classic Seinfeld episode. Only “Swaggy P” is certainly nowhere near as lovable as George was).

So give me Houston (once again) and here’s hoping for an epic Game 7, which I’ll likely need to find airing at three in the morning somewhere in Belgium to enjoy.

I’m also going to root for another Game 7 showdown in the East, only in this one I’m sticking to my (recent) guns. I won’t rehash my Celtics/LeBron mutual hate dilemma in this post, but the angst of this matchup does remain quite real for me. And I’m also not simply riding the “Celtics can’t lose at home in these playoffs” bandwagon” either, although based on what I read about last night’s (this morning’s?) game, it sure is starting to seem that way.

I’m actually more excited about the possibility of an Eastern Conference Game 7 than one out west, as the idea of a desperate (and likely running on fumes) LeBron heading into Boston Garden and trying to carry that ragtag supporting cast of his into the finals should be an awesome viewing experience. That’s assuming they make it to a Game 7, but it is with an enormous amount of confidence I say that Cleveland is a lock in Game 6 at home.

Based on what we’ve seen from the Celts in this series on the road, they will be content to wait it out for some home cooking and then try to lock it up back in Boston.  If you are a Celtics fan, that mentality should scare the hell out of you. And that makes me happy, too. In the end, though, team basketball prevails in the East and the Celts move on.

There it is — rooting hard for dual Game 7’s in the respective conference finals. And I’m  predicting that the home floor advantage is the slight differentiator in both series, setting up a rematch of the 1986 finals (with hopefully a more competitive series coming our way) won by Boston in 6 mostly uninteresting games (although the Rockets Twin Towers of Sampson and Olajuwon at the time was pretty cool).

And when it’s over, let’s start the over/under discussion as to how many days it takes Bob Myers to jettison Swaggy P out of Oakland and on to some perennial also-ran where he can hoist up bad shots at will, score 20+ a game, annoy teammates on a nightly basis, all on the way to a 25-57 record (just please keep him out of New York, as when I reread that description it sounded eerily similar to Knickerbocker-land!).

Take a bow, Nick Young. You are doing what all the collective finest basketball minds in the NBA have been unable to do to date — figure out a way to take down the Golden State Warriors.  It’s all about chemistry, people, chemistry.

Who’s Heading to the Hall


Earlier this month Ichiro Suzuki announced his retirement from baseball as a member of  the Seattle Mariners, the team he broke in with.  Ichiro should be a first ballot Hall of Famer.  In the traditional sense.  Staggering stats, an iconic player, and if you factor in his time in Japan you simply shake your head at the numbers he amassed. All-Time Great. Period. There was a time when “First Ballot” meant something, when that rarified air was reserved for the Ichiro’s of the game, and I hope we get back to those days soon.

As a baseball traditionalist, there’s a lot of issues I struggle with.  The DH is pushing 50 years old, and I still don’t like it.  Make the pitchers hit.  I’ll save all the arguments around that one for another time, but you get the idea.  At least they ditched that astro-turf idea years ago and gave us back real grass. I like a pitchers duel, and the hit and run, and long for the days when you had to be a “no doubt about it” all-time great to earn entrance into the MLB Hall of Fame (and All-World to get in on the first ballot).

Ichiro’s retirement got me thinking about who’s going to follow him into The Hall over the next decade-plus. It seems to me that we are at an odd point in the National Pastime’s history, with very few current stars assured of Hall of Fame entry (at least under my rigid standards, more on that in a second). As in any era, there are dozens of young stars who today appear Hall of Fame bound, but the key variable here is sustainability of that excellence over an entire career. That’s the differentiator for so many, so with that in mind I decided to take a look at the current baseball landscape.  I sorted  this discussion by category:  the Locks, the Debatables and the More Wood To Chop’s:

The Locks

I see three of them.  Albert Pujols leads the way, with his 3000+ hits and 600+ HR’s being simply staggering stats, even in today’s homer happy era. Back in the day he also had a mean glove, and he was a winner (at least when he was a Cardinal). To me he’s an example of a First Ballot, no-doubt-abouter. Drop the mic.

Adrian Beltre is also a lock, although in my world of tougher grading, he isn’t a first-ballot candidate.  Tremendous defensive player who also amassed 3000 hits and had well above average power.  Beltre’s eccentric “don’t touch my head” thing makes for fun baseball lore, too, which baseball desperately needs more of these days.

My third lock is Miguel Cabrera.  I believe if he retired today he’d get in. Barely.  Over 2600 hits and nearing 500 dingers, with a couple of MVP’s thrown in along the way.  I’m biased here, because he happens to be one of my favorite major leaguers, having witnessed up close how engaging and genuinely warm he is with the fans when visiting Oakland, and from afar his highly publicized battle with alcohol, which he overcame with dignity (here’s hoping he keeps that one at bay). He’s likely to get to 3000 hits in a year or two, and it would be fun to see a contender in need of a big bat and stabilizing clubhouse leader rescue him from the toilet that is the Tigers current tank season.


The Debatables

This whole Robinson Cano suspension thing fascinates me as it pertains to the Hall of Fame.  I had Cano approaching “lock” status despite my bias against his Yankees years (just because), his penchant for not hustling, and his shameless pursuit of a dimmer spotlight (and bigger check, but we can’t really blame him for that, right?) that triggered his move to Seattle. But hey, the guy played seemingly every day and had absurd stats for a second baseman (and yeah, he won, too…). Now what?

The voters seem to be softening on the steroid cheats, which obviously helps him (by the way, props to Mark Texeirra for calling out his former teammate after the steroid news hit, pointing out that Cano’s best friends on the Yanks — A-Rod and Melky Cabrera — both got popped for PED’s, and candidly stating he wasn’t surprised Cano went down also).  We must assume he’s got a few more strong stat years in him once he returns from his suspension, even if they do take place in the relative anonymity of the Pacific Northwest, and that should firm up his stats for the voters.  Will there be a PED hangover? Right now, on my ballot (man I wish I got to vote on this one), he’s on the outside looking in.

Will a starting pitcher ever gain entry again?  If I am correct in my belief that the 300-game winner has gone the way of the dinosaur, then the voters will need to redefine HOF entrance criteria for starting pitchers in our new world of “quality” starts, pitch count ceilings and innings restrictions.  All that being said, how about C.C. Sabathia? Statistically he’s the closest.  Literally a bigger than life character (again, at a time MLB needs more of this), Sabathia’s won big as a power pitcher and now seems to be successfully reinventing himself as a crafty lefty. To me, he’s right on the doorstep.

Even accounting for my distaste for all things Yankees, and my tendency to tarnish anyone associated with the Evil Empire, C.C. gets a pass here. His Indians tenure was often spectacular without the same dominant supporting cast he’s had in the Bronx, plus his publicized admission of the need to skip a playoff series to address his alcohol issues sent a message on life and priorities that didn’t garner nearly the attention it deserved at the time.

He’s sitting on 239 wins right now.  If he extends his career through next year and gets to around 260 he gets my vote.  He’ll (unfortunately) have likely added another World Series ring by then also, and his history of always wanting the baseball, often on short rest, cements his case for me.

One issue for Sabathia’s supporters to consider:  if you are in agreement with my assessment on the “Hefty Lefty” and The Hall, then how do you approach Bartolo Colon? As of this writing Big Sexy has 242 wins (most in the bigs), and despite a “fast”ball that seems destined to dip below 80 MPH any minute now, seems to keep finding ways to grind out wins.  Yes, he had the PED suspension years back, too, but he’s Big Sexy for gosh sakes!  Everybody loves Big Sexy.  To me he belongs in that Hall of Very Good purgatory where the long-career accumulators hang out (and by the way, that’s the Hall where Andre Dawson, Jim Rice and Tim Raines would be hanging in right now, if not for the “everybody gets a trophy” mentality of too many of today’s HOF voters).


More Wood to Chop

This category is always the longest when the future HOF conversation comes up.  Every generation is loaded with awesome talents who appear on a collision course with The Hall.  But funny things happen on the way to 20-year careers of sustained greatness. Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson and Kirby Puckett are old-time examples of those who at a frozen moment in time appeared locks on their way to Hall of Fame induction, only to have injury or tragedy derail them.  Look at Joe Mauer for a present day example.

However there are several current studs beginning to separate themselves from the pack.  I would argue that Justin Verlander (apologies to Max Scherzer fans) and Clayton Kershaw are the best righty and lefty starting pitchers in the game today, who have also provided sustained excellence over the past several years.  And both of them would find themselves on the outside of The Hall looking in if an injury forced them into retirement today.

Verlander is closest, with 193 wins to his credit, plus the “team on my back” World Series win with the Astros last year.  But he needs a few more years to even get into the debatable category, and a couple of more middling, end of career 10-win seasons after that to seal it statistically.  Kershaw “only” has 145 wins right now and a cranky back, plus the looming overhang of his poor postseason track record. If I had to bet today, I’d say he doesn’t get there, despite these last seven years of other-worldly performance.

From the batter’s box point of view it would appear Joey Votto is on his way to strong Hall of Fame consideration.  He boasts an MVP in 2010, 1600+ hits and a lifetime .313 batting average (and his on base percentage is .427, the same as Tris Speaker’s, for crying out loud).  Despite toiling in relative anonymity in Cincinnati (albeit a big-time launching pad ballpark), Votto should put himself in the HOF conversation with another five good years.  Of course a lot can happen in half a decade, but let’s hope he stays healthy and keeps this statistical trajectory, because he is on the verge of mind-blowing career numbers if he maintains his current pace.


A Few to Watch

The “projection” part of my Hall of Fame evaluation has to start and stop with Mike Trout.  The “best player in the game today” sure seems well on his way.  Video game stats plus unreal defense in centerfield?  It seems only injury can stop him, and the entire world of baseball holds it’s collective breath that doesn’t happen. Let’s also hope this current Angels upswing continues, as it would be a lot of fun to witness Trout in the postseason while Pujols is still hanging around and Ohtani is filling the seats both as a pitcher and a hitter. Fun times in Anaheim!

Others I’d put in the category of Hall-worthy trajectory:  Buster Posey, Aroldis Chapman, Paul Goldschmidt/Freddie Freeman (I put them together, because they seem mirror images of one another — check this out:  Goldschmidt hits righty and has 1000+ hits for his career with 180 HR’s and a .294 career average.  Freeman hits lefty and has 1100+ career hits with 174 HR’s and a .291 career average), Manny Machado and Charlie Blackmon (try playing out those Coors Field numbers over a 20-year career!).  But it is a long road from here to there.  The cool part is how much fun it will be to see these paths play out in seasons to come.

Speaking of the Hall of Very Good

I know the dangers of comparing players across eras, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to do it anyway. When Tim Raines got in The Hall on the basis of great speed and strong (but not All-Time Great) stats I had to go back and compare.  Take a look at the following:

Raines:  .294 BA, 2605 hits (accumulator figures though, as eight of his last nine years in the league he was a part-timer), 808 stolen bases and five monster years with the Expos early in his career.

Maury Wills:  .281 BA, 2134 hits (not an accumulator — from his second year in 1960 to his second to last year in 1971 the guy played every day at one of the most demanding positions on the diamond) with 586 career stolen bases.  He had 7-8 monster years and was a key cog on those great Dodger ball clubs of the early-1960’s.  He didn’t pad his stats by hanging around in a utility role for an extra five years, which dimmed his HOF credentials.

Wills was one of the best shortstops of his era and an outstanding player. And he is a solid member of the Hall of Very Good.  Raines should be there, too, not in the Hall of Fame.

A couple more:

Jim Rice:  .298 BA, 2452 hits, 382 HR’s, 1451 RBI’s, 8 hellacious statistical years for the Sawx. Average defensive outfielder.

Andre Dawson: .279 BA, 2774 hits, 438 HR’s, 1591 RBI’s, 8 superstar years between his time with the Expos and Cubs.  Cannon of an arm in right field in his youth. His stats were accumulated in 600 more games played than Rice (roughly 3 1/2 season’s worth).

So what about:

Dave Parker:  .290 BA, 2712 hits, 339 HR’s, 1493 RBI’s, 7 incredible years mostly with the Pirates (and the We Are Family championship season of ’79).  Tremendous defensive right fielder with an arm at least as good as Dawson’s. Played in 200 fewer games than The Hawk, as well.

Dick Allen:  .292 BA, 1848 hits, 351 HR’s, 1119 RBI’s, 8 massive statistical years and  a couple of others that were simply really strong (even though his lifetime stats are below the other three in this comparison due to a shorter career, I just had to find a way to include Dick Allen in this conversation — the guy was so cool, with the glasses and always wearing that batting helmet).

Do Parker, who was a central figure in the cocaine scandal in the mid-’80’s, or Allen, who was a well known clubhouse malcontent for multiple franchises, belong in the Hall of Fame?  I don’t put either in, but I’d rank Parker ahead of both Rice and Dawson.  Hall of Very Good staples to me, not Hall of Famers.

Today’s voters are making it too easy, and thus the standards are dropping. And now we are running the risk of letting the steroid cheats who desecrated the statistical history and integrity of the game into Cooperstown?  Where’s Goose Gossage when you need him? Somebody do something, please!