July 10, 2008

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LONGSHOTS: Baseball season has actually started
by Dave Long

I told you a few weeks back, after the Celtics had won the NBA title, that Iíd check around to see if the baseball season had gotten started yet. So I did, and it had. In fact with the All-Star break coming up after Sundayís games, itís mid-year and there have been some pretty interesting things happening all around baseball. So, since half the baseball fans I know in these parts barely have even heard of the National League, Iíll share with you what I found as an educational public service.

In baseballís first 107 years there have been exactly three second basemen to hit 40 or more homers in a season. But with 24 and 23, (Paper) Chase Utley and Dan Uggla are threatening to nearly match that total in one year.

Speaking of firsts: with alum Hanley Ramirez also on a pace to hit 40, he and Uggla could become the first double play combination ever to each hit over 40 in a season.

While it turned into a world title in 2007, boy do I wish the Sox had kept Ramirez out of the Josh Beckett-Mike Lowell deal. Heíd be fun to watch. But heís still another feather in the cap of a spectacular run in Theo Epsteinís minor-league system.

Sports 101: Who are the three second basemen to hit 40 or more homers in a season?

I think this is it for Manny in Boston. In my Red Sox Guide I said one of the biggest question marks was whether he just had an off year in 2007 or was he, like almost every slugger before him at 36, in decline? Count me as one who does not think heís simply in a slump. His bat speed doesnít seem the same.

While the play of Tampa Bay at home has been startling to many, itís not the difference between them and the Sox. Itís that Boston is eight games under .500 in the road and the Rays an even .500.

If Tampa is baseballís biggest surprise, whoís the bigger disappointment, Detroit or the Mets?

While Iím a big enough boy to take it when my friend the insurance mogul Dick Lombardi told me last weekís column was ďhorribleĒ (or was it ďhorrific,Ē I canít remember), Iím still not saying anything about his beloved San Francisco Giants. Even if the local kid Brian Wilson of Londonderry is headed to the All-Star Game. Especially when he has an ďI Told You SoĒ IOU ready to be collected with Tim Lincecum at 10-1 and just a hair behind Edison Volquez for the best ERA. In fact he may be the gameís top pitcher so far, especially considering heís on a team that is both horrible and horrific, even with those guys.

When is the last time a trade worked out for both teams as well as Volquez for Josh Hamilton? Although youíve got to wonder why pitching-poor Texas would trade him for a guy with the drug-addicted past of the resurgent Hamilton.

Well, thereís the aforementioned Beckett/Lowell-for-Ramirez deal. The last before that I can think of was the Reds getting Joe Morgan, Cesar Geronimo, Dennis Menke and Jack Billingham for Lee May and Tommy Helms in 1971! Thereís got to be once since ó right?

Alumni news: In case youíre nostalgic for the Eric Gagne era: his ERA is 6.33. Bronson Arroyo ainít much better at 5.82. And Wily Mo Pena never did get it together after leaving. He has two homers and 10 RBI in 61 games for the Nationals.

You want consistency? Look up Albert Pujolsí stats. With a .333 lifetime average and 300 homers already he arguably has the greatest start ever after seven years ó and in his first five seasons his at-bats are as follows: 590, 590, 591, 592, 590.

Thatís the coolest stat Iíve heard since George Will offered in Ken Burnís Baseball the stat that exactly half of the 3,630 hits by the great Stan Musial came on the road, while the other half came in St. Louis.

If Iím from Cleveland, Iím ticked off at an owner who throws in the towel at mid-season and makes a half-hearted effort to sign the reigning Cy Young winner as free agency approaches for C. C. Sabathia. This is a place that once sold out nearly 500 straight games ó so they support winners. Booo.

Ten of 16 teams in the AL are over .500, which seems like a lot. Especially since 10 of 16 in the NL are under it, including all five in the West, which puts Arizona in the playoffs with fewer wins than losses.

With Chipper Jones ďtailing offĒ to .388 it looks like Ted Williams is safe to be the last .400 hitter for at least one more year. My rule of thumb is, if one person can do it, why canít someone else match it? But since it was last done 67 years ago, Iím starting to wonder. And Iím now convinced that if one of the two great feats from the spectacular 1941 season falls, itíll be Joe DiMaggioís 56- game hitting streak.

Iím on the fence about Curt Schilling in the Hall of Fame. Ditto for Pedro and his meager-by-the-Hallís-standards 211 wins. Iíll look at that more closely in next weekís column.

Nice to see Nomar back at shortstop in L.A. after an injury to Rafel Furgal. But itís a sad reminder of what might have been. Heís never been the same since leaving here when he was on track for a spot in the Hall. Now ó no way, unless he made a Paul Molitor-like comeback in his mid-30s.

With Johann Santana at 7-7, with a 2.96 ERA in 121.2 innings, would you still include Jon Lester in a deal for him since heís a very similar 7-3, 3.21, 117.2 and with a one-hitter and no-hitter to his credit to boot? I would have then, but not now.

Sports 101 Answers: The three second basemen are the great Rogers Hornsby, who hit . 401 to go along with 42 homers and 152 RBI in 1922; Ryne Sandberg, who hit 40 for the Cubs in 1990; and Davey Johnson, who hit 43 for Atlanta in 1973 ó a guy who never even hit 20 in any other of his 13 seasons. Yes, heís the Davey Johnson who piloted the Mets in the 1986 Series and one of three Braves to hit 40, when he, Darrel Evans (41) and Hank Aaron (40) became the only trio ever on the same team to hit 40 or more in a season that year.

And finally, with the Sox seven back in the loss column as I write this, it looks like panic has gripped the hub for the first time since after Game Three in the 2004 ALCS.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial ó stop the presses

6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 ó Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury ó that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK ó it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 Mís for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Heroís death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The†Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat