LONGSHOTS: Busy week yields four interesting stories
By Dave Long email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.