LONGSHOTS: Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
by Dave Long
With the All-Star break upon us as I’m writing this, I have a little extra time because there aren’t as many things to follow. It’s time to clear my cluttered mind of various thoughts that have been piling up.
Here are five things I hate about what the All-Star game has become. #1: It decides home field in the World Series based on starting line-ups that are nothing more than popularity contests. #2: Every team has to have a representative. I’ll buy that the home team has to have at least one, but there are now too many teams to force undeserving players onto the team. #3: They need 33 players, including 13 pitchers, to play nine stinking innings? Give me a break. #4: The constant use of the word “snub” when a deserving guy like the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler doesn’t make it. “Snub” is a negative word suggesting they left him off on purpose, which isn’t the case. See numbers one and two for the real reason that happens. #5: They don’t play to win. If they did, the starters would go six innings, the starting pitcher three, and everybody wouldn’t have to get in the game.
For those who still want to keep “snub” in the All-Star game lexicon, look up the numbers in the race to play first base in the 1935 All-Star game and get back to me. That’s the year Hank Greenberg had an astonishing 100 RBI at the break and didn’t make the team! He lost out to Jimmy Foxx and Lou Gehrig, two all-time all-timers who were coming off triple crown-winning years in 1933 and ’34 respectively, so on it like a numbers game. But both were having what for them passed as a bad year, while Greenberg was on fire. Since it was the ’30s and Greenberg was Jewish you don’t suppose it had anything to anti-Semitism, do you? If so, THAT is what you call a snub.
There have been 13 triple crowns won since 1901. Mickey Mantle had the most homers with 52 in 1956. Lou Gehrig had the most RBI with 165 in 1934, and at .420 in 1901 Napoleon Lajoie had the highest average. Don’t think Albert Pujols will hit .420 in his quest to win the triple crown this year, and his 87 RBI are slightly behind Gehrig’s pace, but he’s tracking to hit 58 homers, which would out o Mantle in that department if he becomes the first since Yaz in 1967 to do it. Here’s hoping he does.
Baseball 101: Two players have won the triple crown of hitting twice. Who are they?
I’ll take the British Open as the greatest golf tournament. The Masters is pretty and signals the beginning of spring, and the U.S. Open is great but mainly about driving accurately and putting. But with the crazy weather, different course designs and unusual conditions, players have to use every club and different kind of shot in their bag — making it a far greater test of a player’s all-around game.
It’s true Phil Jackson hand-picked L.A. to coach Kobe and Shaq together and he got to Chicago just as Michael Jordan was becoming a devastating force. But Red never won without Russell and Jordan never won without Jackson, while he compiled his10 titles and highest winning percentage ever with, first, a team built around the slashing of Scottie Pippen, the dominating brilliance of Jordan and interchangeable pieces on the block with little overall consequence. Then in L.A. he had the best low post player in the game with Kobe riding in the jump seat as his number two. And finally with a hybrid of those teams with Kobe in the Jordan role with his number two guy being a decent low post scorer in Pao (the goat) Gasol. And he also won 55 in year one of Jordan’s first retirement. That’s Don Shula-like coaching versatility. I think we have to give it to him as the greatest NBA coach ever.
Given the free agent names left out there the Celtics MUST match almost any offer Big Baby Davis gets. If he follows Leon Powe out that door, they go from a very good offensive rebounding team to one with just Paul Pierce who goes to the glass on that end. And since they have very little to trade and zero salary cap flexibility to make trades, they’ll be far too thin behind the starters and Rasheed Wallace in the big department.
And speaking of Wallace, what’s the team record for Ts in a season?
Here are Theo’s five best moves as Red sox GM in ascending order. #5 – Not trading Jon Lester and Jacoby Ellsbury for Johan Santana. #4 – Going to Arizona for Thanksgiving Dinner in 2003 and coming home with Curt Schilling in the fold. #3 – Hiring Terry Francona, who’s perfect for Boston. I never would have guessed he’d turn out this good. #2 – Signing David Ortiz after he’d been renounced by the Twins after he hit 20 homers in the band box of the Metrodome. He went for 31, 41, 47, 54 and 35 in the next five years with Boston. #1 – Trading Nomar for Orlando Cabrera and Doug Meintkiewicz — that one took guts and led directly to ending the curse three months later. Honorable mention –He did have to pay Manny’s remaining salary AND had to give up two prospects to Pittsburgh to do it, but getting Jason Bay out of the Manny mess wasn’t bad. Especially if he signs Bay to a new contract as he’s turned into what they expected J.D. Drew to be.
The Yankees rotation will be downright scary if they win the Roy Halladay sweepstakes.
And speaking of good coaching in L.A.: How much of what the Dodgers have done last year and in having their best record at the All-Star break in 32 years with Manny missing 50 games has to do with Joe Torre being in their dugout? Probably more than the Yankees brass would want to admit, I surmise.
Wonder if that means we’ll get to see Manny at Fenway if the Sox get to the Series. If that happens I don’t think it will mirror the lovefest that occurred when Nomar came back to Fenway last week for the first time since the trade five years ago.
Baseball 101 Answer: Ted Williams in 1942 (.356, 36, 137) and 1947 (.343, 31, 114) and Rogers Hornsby in 1922 (.410, 42, 152) and 1925 (.403, 39, 143) are the only two players to win the triple crown twice.
What do you think the answers would be from each side if someone suggested the Yankees and Red Sox swapped their respective lost-in-the-wilderness starters Dice-K and Chen Ming Wang even up?
And finally, if the Red Sox need insurance for Mike Lowell, do you think Theo would consider bringing back Nomar Garciaparra to back up at first, third and DH?
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.