Sunday, September 30, 2007

Statistical Feat Overlooked in '07

With all the goings-on this year in baseball, I'm not surprised one of the most curious statistical feats has gone all but overlooked. I mean, just take a look at some of the many (and I mean many) things that happened this year:

- Tom Glavine won his 300th game.
- John Smoltz and Andy Pettitte each won their 200th games.
- Trevor Hoffman became the first closer to record 500 career saves.
- Pedro Martinez struck out the 3,000th batter of his career.
- Mark Buehrle, Justin Verlander, and Boston rookie Clay Bucholz all threw no-hitters.
- Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career home run.
- Alex Rodriguez, Frank Thomas, and Jim Thome all hit their 500th homers.
- Ryan Howard became the fastest to hit 100 career home runs.
- Craig Biggio became the 27th player to join the 3,000 hit club.
- On Aug. 22, in a 30-3 victory over Baltimore, the Texas Rangers became the first team to score 30 runs in a game since 1897.
- Troy Tulowitzki (it's okay, I'll clarify - starting shortstop for Colorado) became the 13th player in history to turn an unassisted triple play.
- On April 22, Manny Ramirez, JD Drew, Mike Lowell, and Jason Varitek hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers for the fifth time in ML history.

- And Barry Bonds did something with a home run record and some steroids. That counted, right?

But despite this exhausting list of accomplishments this year, one remains quietly flying under the radar because of how unusual it is. It's not hard to understand why. Put simply - it's complicated.

Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson and Philly shortstop Jimmy Rollins became the first players to record 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 homers, and 20 steals in the same season since Willie Mays did it in 1957. The two join Mays and Frank "Wildfire" Schulte (1911) as the only players in the history of the game to have 20-20-20-20 seasons. And Granderson and Rollins are the first duo to accomplish this feat in the same season, making it even more remarkable.

If your first thoughts are, big deal, that isn't much of a statline, then I ask you - why haven't more people accomplished this?

But with all the other accomplishments going on, it's no wonder this didn't receive much publicity. After all, it's not every season that players reach marks of 500 and 600 homers, in the same season as others get their 3,000th hit and 3,000th K. And all in the same season that a hallowed record sees its usurper come along and triumphantly replace the former record-holder to the wild approval of the fans.

(What? They put an asterisk on the ball and sent it to the Hall of Fame? And Barry Bonds seemed like such a nice man, too...)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It's Been Too Long...

My semester in Rome, my three-job summer and my internet problems at school now all behind me, I think I can safely start to post again. I know you missed me. I missed you.

At the risk of ranting and raving about sports events past, we'll focus on the future here. I've had a lot of thoughts on some of the ongoing stories, so here are three things I think that I think:

- I think Isiah Thomas going through a sexual harassment case is good for the Knicks. Not too much else would take the focus away from the fact that their point guard has clearly lost his mind, that their starting center and power forward can't play defense, and that they're heading for a seventh-straight losing season.

- I think that the Red Sox should ban fans from sitting on the Green Monster. Should the Sox lose the division, they would lose their chance to select the longer series (i.e. they would lose some time off during the series). This likely means the season's most comedic theme for Boston (Eric Gagne) would probably be forced onto the postseason roster. The Sawks would need more pitchers to compensate for playing more games in fewer days. All that adds up to Gagne's 7.88 ERA entering a game, followed by tens of fans launching themselves off the Green Monster. (Don't think so? I just had a diehard fan defend Gagne by telling me he pitched twice in their latest series without giving up a run...against the Devil Rays.)

- I think that football, despite Michael Vick and Rodney Harrison's HGH confession and the Pats' camera scandal, will still remain America's sport. I've tried to figure out why the baseball steroids scandal was so devastating while the dog fighting/HGH/cheating thing doesn't seem to be as big of a deal. Then I realized two things:

First, ESPN carries Monday Night Football and overhypes it like crazy. So there's no way in hell they'll let SportsCenter run too many investigative pieces on cheating in football the way it did with baseball. Sunday and Wednesday Night Baseball are popular, sure, but MNF's just too powerful. It was already amazingly huge across the nation when ESPN picked it up, it occurs once a week, and it isn't subject to other games happening around the league. You can switch to the local baseball team's channel and forget about Giants/Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball. But a MNF version of Giants/Cardinals? There's no other game to watch.

Second, the reason football will remain America's sport despite the blemishes while baseball suffered is that baseball used to be America's sport. We need football to be the top sport, because the other options aren't much better. The nation was offended when a steroids-bloated Barry Bonds broke one of the most hallowed records in sports. It tarnished the game. The beautiful game played by fathers and sons and watched by families from all walks of life. Fans felt betrayed in '94 with the strike, betrayed again after they returned to baseball during the '98 McGwire/Sosa home run chase, only to discover that, too, was corrupt. Football not only will remain as the top sport out of the big three, but it needs to stay there.