LONGSHOTS: A weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
by Dave Long
As bored as I was on Sunday with no Patriots game, I’ve got to admit it was a pretty interesting day all over the country that left us with no shortage of things to talk about, including:
We got to see one area where baseball is still king over football. Consider the two-year fanfare over Barry Bonds’ pursuit of Hank Aaron’s home run record. It was helped along by the parallel steroid story, of course, but it was just as big when Aaron went by the Babe in 1974. Compare that to the blip on football’s radar as Brett Favre approached Dan Marino for first place all-time in touchdown passes as almost no one knew about it until he tied his record last week. As Robert Parish used to say, “It’s nooooo contest,” when it comes to records and history between baseball and football.
Actually I think football’s real record is an undefeated season. If any among the Colts, Packers, Cowboys and Pats (I’m writing this before Monday night) get close that would be HUGE.
Speaking of Cameron Diaz’s boyfriend in There’s Something About Mary. While I absolutely love his toughness and admire his streak of 250+ consecutive games played, he doesn’t quite go into the same level with Elway, Montana, Unitas, Manning and Brady among the best I’ve seen. Even though he has a passel of big plays on the résumé, he made just enough mistakes at the wrong moment to drop down a notch among the best of the best. I’ll take Bart Starr as the Pack’s all-time QB too.
Staying in the NFC Central there was the Lions’ astonishing 34-point fourth quarter. Or was it the Bears’ astonishing collapse? Either way, when is the last time a team went into the fourth period with three lousy points and ended the game with 37? The Bears got 14 as well in a period that had two kick-off returns for TDs and an interception run back for a score. And none of it can be blamed on (train) Rex Grossman, who lost his starting job in the biggest no-brainer decision since Donald Rumsfeld got benched at the Pentagon.
There was the best grudge game performance in a first game back at the old stomping grounds since Roger Clemens stared down Dan Duquette after striking out 16 at Fenway for the Duke’s “in the twilight of his career” crack. It came in Miami when Daunte Culpepper threw for two TDs and ran for three more in Oakland’s 35-17 win on the same surgically repaired knee the Miami brass said wouldn’t hold up as they shabbily pushed him out the door.
Good thing Eric Mangini turned in Bill Belichick. After a loss in Buffalo, a 1-3 start and squealing on the guy who made it possible to get the big bucks he now makes, if this continues what do you think his job prospects will be if he gets fired in NY?
We got to see the talkative Chargers also drop to 1-3. That’s more losses than all last year. Wonder when soon-to-be-ex-GM A. J. Smith will realize that while Marty Schottenheimer has a scary post-season record, playoff teams in Cleveland, Kansas City and now San Diego all got worse after he left. It also happened when Dan the Fan fired him in Washington to bring in Steve Spurrier.
The retiring Craig Biggio played his last game for Houston. Even though he’s a good player who made one of the oddest position conversions of all time, from catcher to second base, never once during his career did I consider him bound for Cooperstown. But many will say 3,000 hits means you’re in. I say, while he did have 291 career homers, he hit just .251 and never drove in close to 100. And let me ask you this: if you had your choice of 10 years with his college teammate Mo Vaughn or 20 with Biggio, which would you take? I’d take Mo ’cause he was much better. And I mean no disrespect, because after all, Biggio’s a fellow Long Island guy!
With rampaging Colorado forcing a wild card playoff and Mike Lowell getting a standing O, the old baseball cliché “sometimes the best deals are the one’s you don’t make” came into focus. We heard all winter and spring Theo was hot to trot for Todd Helton and Lowell was the guy he’d give up. Well the numbers are in; Helton hit .318, with 18 home runs with 89 RBI. For Lowell it was .324 with 21 home runs and 120 RBI. Plus he’s a better fielder, costs a lot less, ain’t playing a mile above sea-level to help his numbers and team MVP. Theo dodged a bullet.
It’s the latest in a building number of deals made or in the rumor stage (B. K. Kim, Edgar Renteria, Manny for Lastings Milledge and Aubrey Huff) to “get better” that make me nervous when I hear rumors of any Theo deal. Wanting to get better is OK, but it’s as valuable to know when you have a good thing — which Lowell is. Ditto for Orlando Cabrera.
Still young Theo’s team won the East thanks in part to a hellacious stream of young talent coming out of his farm system as Mssr’s Pedroia, Paplebon, Buchholz, Ellsbury, Delcarmen, Lester and Youkilis all played significant roles in ’07.
With the Twins here the final weekend, as they were at the climax of the Impossible Dream of 1967 when they were beat by Boston on the final day, we heard rumblings ace Johan Santana may be traded this winter. So, while I’d never include Clay Buchholz or Jacoby Ellsbury, would the centerfielder-less Twins take a package of John Lester, Manny Delcarmen or Craig Hanson and Coco Crisp for him? How about this rotation — Santana, Josh Beckett, Dice-K, Tim Wakefield or Curt Schilling and Buchholz?
I feel bad for Willie Randolph, but Mets fans FINALLY got paid back for their incredible luck when the ball got through Buckner. It’s also a shame a classy guy like Tom Glavine had the kind of Buckner moment that can overshadow a great career in the same year he won his 300th game. But blowing a seven-game lead with 17 to play might be the worst choke in history. Here are three notable things from their final week: Pedro, like in 2003, lost a huge one on Thursday, BK Kim beat them on Friday and Moises Alou had a 30-game hitting streak in the middle of it all that no one seemed to know about. The headline writers at the New York Post had a ball with it all of course, with Monday’s “Choked To Death” being the best.
All that happened on just one day — which I think is kind of cool.
Dave Long hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM-Nashua.