October 30, 2010

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LONGSHOTS: Busy week yields four interesting stories
By Dave Long dlong@hippopress.com

Item: Wins should matter for Cy Young

You’re going to hear many people pounding the drum for Seattle’s Felix Hernandez to win the AL Cy Young award because he’s had the most dominating year. The same Felix Hernandez who started 34 games and won just 13 and was ONE game over .500. People will point to his ERA title, a great WHIP, 242 strikeouts and that his team was 40 games under .500. All true, but I say so what.

Steve Carlton’s team won two fewer in 1972 than the 2010 Mariners and he was 27 and 10. How about Randy Jones, who was 22-14 to win the 1976 NL Cy with the 73-89 Padres. Or maybe Robin Roberts, who won no fewer than 21 and as many as 28 when the Phillies were below from 1951 to 1955. They’ll say “you’re living in the past — baseball’s different now.” And I’ll say Cliff Lee. Not only did he go 22-3 with the hitless 81-81 Indians of two years ago; he also was five games over .500 in the first half of the year while playing with the same 61-101 Mariners Hernandez did.

Nowhere in the universe do people make it more complicated than it really is more than in baseball, where somehow WHIP, quality starts and ERA now matter more than wins. I know it’s a team game and playing for a bad team reduces your chances of getting more. But winning is an art, not about stats. Case in point: two Sundays ago when Dice-K took a two-hit shutout into the eighth. Gave up a hit to the first guy and then A-Rod took him deep to put them behind 2-1. While the Sox gave him only one run and he lost that lead all by himself. Nice stats, but still a loss. Keeping late leads is how you earn the Cy.

So earth to Bill James and his ilk. The only thing that matters in pro sports is WINNING. That’s why it should have gone to CC Sabathia last year and again this year for winning 21 games.

Item: NFL Story of the Week

Was it me, or did Troy Aikman do everything but nominate Michael Vick for the Nobel Peace Prize while babbling on about him during Eagles and Redskins on Sunday? First, why is everyone so surprised? He was the number one overall pick, remember? Plus his body got two years off from the pounding while he was in the big house after losing any shot he ever had at winning the Nobel Prize, and he was pretty good before he went away, wasn’t he?

Item: Sox finish out of the money

There is no question the crazy rash of injuries that cost them Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and many others put a serious dent in the Red Sox’ hopes in 2010. But it’s hardly the entire story and to just point to them is taking the easy excuse. The fact is, they still finished just seven games behind, in a season when Jonathan Papelbon blew eight saves and, ahem, “ace” Josh Beckett won just six games and had an ERA of 5.78. If he’d won just an underachieving 10 and Pap had only blown his norm of two they’d be in the playoffs even with all the injuries. Which makes the gritty, unexpected contributions from Bill Hall, Jed Lowrie (in the second half), Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish, to name a few, all the more laudable, as well as the work of Terry Francona to create an environment to let them perform. And while some want to point to John Lackey not living up to the paycheck, he did win the 14 I predicted — so he did what I expected.

But what’s most disappointing is the way the brass, including Tito, accepted their fate after losing two of three in Tampa Bay at the end of August instead of fighting to the end. That trickles down to the players, as it did in a similar circumstance in 2006 when they waved the white flag by trading their best pitcher at the time, David Wells. And again last year when Tito conceded the AL East to the Yanks when they swept at the Stadium at the end of August. That led to malaise as they entered the post season and was why they got swept out by the Angels. Yes, it looked bleak. But they were just 6.5 games out and gave up. From that point on the Yankees went 15-17 and the Rays 16-16, meaning if they went a possible 22-10 (see 2007 Rockies) they’d have gotten in. While that was probably too much to expect, it’s still why you keep fighting to the end. I’ll remember that as much as I do the injuries when I think of 2010.

Item: Can’t duck Oregon in BCS parade

When I first was becoming interested in college football all the big-name head coaches were legendary figures — Bear Bryant at Alabama, Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Bo (I want a Michigan Man) Schembechler at Michigan, Ara Parsegihan at Notre Dame; Darrel Royal was leading Texas to the national championship that New Year’s Day by beating Roger Staubach and Navy in the Cotton Bowl. And Bud Wilkerson — who won a mere 47 straight at Oklahoma — was the guy I heard on the ABC college football broadcasts. Giants all.

That’s why it seems so weird to see someone I know so well near the top of that profession as Chip Kelly is now. Not that I think he shouldn’t be there. After watching him as offensive coordinator at UNH while its TV analyst, I do, though I can’t say I predicted this kind of success. In Oregon and the rest of the college football world they think he may be on his way to the top rank of coaches. And he may get there sooner than later if his Ducks build on the phenomenal way they blew by #7 Stanford in a truly exciting 45-21 win on Saturday night after trailing 21-3 in the first quarter.

It says two things. First, that people look up to people they don’t even know and give them legendary status just because they are famous. I’m sure all those guys mentioned earlier have similar stories as the former Central QB and guy I used score over on the block in the Carignan League when he was playing for Ferdinando Insurance has. Second, don’t think you can’t do something BIG. Not everybody will get there, but the remarkable story being written in big-time college football by Chipper, of the Gingras Avenue Kellys, shows it’s possible. So go for it.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Saturday Morning Sports from 11 a.m. to noon Saturdays on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM in Manchester and 900-AM in Nashua.


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9/2/2010 Sox in trouble as September arrives
8/26/2010 The Shot Heard round the World goes silent
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8/12/2010 I don't wanna tell you I told you so, but I told you so
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7/29/2010 Counting the way of managing a pitchers workload
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7/15/2010 James gang steals the show
7/8/2010 Observations at baseballs midway point
7/1/2010 Danny's next trick needs to be pulling a rabbit out of his hat
6/24/2010 And baseball season finally kicks off
6/17/2010 NBA Finals schedule causing reporting issues
6/10/2010 Mood swings wildly in NBA finals
6/3/2010 LEssons learned from days gone by this week
5/27/2010 seven days in May filled with action
5/20/2010 The C’s saw something most didn’t prior to current playoff run
5/13/2010 Anniversaries remind Reed and Russell were two of a kind
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4/15/2010 Five stories for the price of one on That Was the Week That Was
4/8/2010 The Nation makes a pitch for having best staff in baseball
4/1/2010 Offense the biggest question as Sox open 2010
3/25/2010 Dancing withthe stars in the NCAA tournament
3/18/2010 Mixed bag on Nomar's Red Sox retirement
3/11/2010 Are Sox spinning on the new move to defense
3/4/2010 Mail bags talks of Pats, Celts and the Olympics
2/25/2010 Tigers tail between his legs amid vast public attention
2/18/2010 This and that as the curtain goes up on other stuff besides football
2/11/2010 This and that as the curtain comes down on football
2/4/2010 Peyton's place in historical pecking order on the line Sunday
1/28/2010 The all-decade choices — Part II
1/21/2010 The 2000s decade gets a last blast from the past
1/14/2010 Patriots marching toward an off-season rebuild
1/7/2010 Questions abound as second season arrives for Pats
12/31/2009 Numbers tell the story for 2009 in review
12/24/2009 Holiday presents for the sports naughty and nice
12/17/2009 Life can be like riding a tiger by the tail
12/10/2009 The mailbag beckons in a busy week
12/3/2009 Is hot stove turning into ho seat for Theo?
11/26/2009 Thanks and turkeys are the usual holiday fare this time of year
11/19/2009 Belichick's fourth-down cal lconfounds Patriot Nation
11/12/2009 the mid-year report for the NFL
11/05/2009 Ducks on the pond as Oregon drowns USC title hopes
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10/22/2009 Mt. Rushmore of Patriots moments
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9/3/2009 On the shrink's couch in a near francoma
8/27/2009 Random thoughts and big refrigerator magnets
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8/6/2009 Ortiz and Manny's steroid story tests fans as well
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7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
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7/2/2009 Declaring independence of how others play the game
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6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
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9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
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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 — 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
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12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
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11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
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7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
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7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
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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 M’s 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
Hero’s 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