Congrats to Sammy Sosa! Welcome to the 500 club!

Now, there's been a lot of talk recently that the home run has been devalued, considering we may have four players reach the big 500 milestone this year. And while most people tend to focus on ballparks or pitching, I think they miss the real point:

It's a change in the way the game is played. It used to be, no one ever struck out. Players did anything to avoid striking out. Much like cricket, they defended the plate, sacrificing power for more balls in play. Just check out this chart to see how that philosophy has changed. By swinging for the fences, players now generate more power, but they strike out much more.

Until Mickey Mantle came along, Babe Ruth held the all-time record for strike outs with 1330. Today, he ranks 65th all-time. Of the top 20 strikeout seasons of all time, 11 have occured since 1990. And only two before 1970 (1969 and 1963 respectively). In 1962, Harmon Killebrew struck out 142 times, a Major League record. That's not even in the top 100 anymore. Think about that, lost in the analysis of the home run explosion is the obvious flip: an explosion in strikeouts.

The point here is that home runs have not become easier, it's just that players have sacrificed bat control for power. It's a tradeoff, but it's worth it if you get a ticket to Cooperstown.
posted by Poseur 4/05/2003 10:39:00 AM


Hawks fire GM Babcock

''It wasn't like this was a shock,'' Babcock said. ''I told my players in a meeting this morning, which probably was the toughest thing to do through this process. I told them I would never on my own, walk away. I would never give up on the process, nor would I give up on them.

''But it's the reality of the NBA. I didn't get a vote.''

Graceful exit, man. Go out with class. So, did Babcock deserve the axe? after all, he's been the head guy for 13 years an Atlanta's won approximately jack. Part of that is the bad luck of playing in the Jordan Era. No one was going to win a title over some of those Bulls teams. And for about four years now, the Hawks have been one of the worst teams in the NBA.

His signature move was trading an aging Dominique Wilkins and first round pick for Danny Manning. That was is 1993 when the shine was off of Manning's star. This was an absolutely terrible move, and was ground for firing right then. But he survived and didn't see a pink slip for another ten years. So in the 1999 season, check out this draft after he horded 1st-round picks like a miser:

Jason Terry (10th), Cal Bowdler (17th), Dion Glover (20th), Jumaine Jones (27th)

Ugh. By all acocunts, Babcock's a great guy, but he's not exactly a top notch GM. Wish him well, but Hawks fans have to applaud this move, even if it was a decade late.

posted by Poseur 4/03/2003 10:35:00 AM

Super Mario... is he done?

Upon completion of the Penguins' 3-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at Mellon Arena, closing the regular-season home schedule, he led his teammates in a slow lap around the rink and waved to the 15,718 in attendance. And after coming off the ice, he delivered his strongest suggestions yet that he is saying farewell.

First off, 15,000 people showing up to see one of the greatest players probably play his last game? Why did the NHL bother to save this team?

You don't need me to tell you Mario was good. If it weren't for Gretzky, he'd be known as the greatest living hockey player (with apologies to Gordie Howe). For Mario to go out like this is just sad. He deserves the same glowing commentary that gets heaped on Jordan and Gretzky.
posted by Poseur 4/03/2003 10:25:00 AM

A-Rod hits #300

He's the youngest player to ever hit 300, just beating Jimmie Foxx to the line. So, of course, the question is: can he break Aaron's record?

Yes, but it's harder than you think. The #1 issue is health. Griffey looked like a lock just three seasons ago, only to be betrayed by a bad back. He now has virtually no shot at the record. And no one can predict health. Injuries happen, even to the most durable players, just ask Derek Jeter.

That said, someone is going to break Aaron's record. There's too many players who have a shot at it, they can't all go down. It may not be A-Rod, but it could be Bonds or Sosa or a younger slugger like Vlad. The record will fall soon, but there's no telling who is going to do it.

My money is on Bonds, with A-Rod running second.
posted by Poseur 4/03/2003 09:51:00 AM


Jeter out for a long time

That sucks. Getting injured on Opening Day is just crappy. If it weren't the Yankees, I'd feel bad for them. So now they have t decide, what now? Despite his huge reputation, the Yanks are more than just Jeter. This is a really good team with players at almost every position. Seriously, Jeter's not as good of a hitter as Giambi or probably Matsui (though that remains to be seen). And his defense is consistently overrated, as his backups often have higher Range Factors and more putouts.

Still, it's a huge loss. Enrique Wilson is a pretty good player, but he's no Derek Jeter. If the Yanks want to win the World Series again, they need their shortstop back as soon as possible.
posted by Poseur 4/02/2003 04:02:00 PM

Doherty canned

It was about Matt Doherty and those who didn't like him.

Doherty's players chafed at his coaching style, an approach so demanding, loud and unappreciative that they found it abusive.

People with influence at Carolina didn't like Doherty's firing of the assistants he found upon his arrival, particularly Carolina's all-time leading scorer, Phil Ford. They didn't care for his histrionics courtside, including his angry chest bumping of Duke assistant Chris Collins. They hated that he said his Carolina team, when struggling to finish with a winning record, was "right on schedule."

So Doherty is gone, and that is why.

It's unfair, but it's hard to see Doherty as a victim betrayed by his own basketball family.

Wouldn't it be ironic if Phil Ford got the job?

I agree with Ned Barnett here, you feel bad for Doherty but not too bad. I probably wouldn't have fired him if anyone was dumb enough to let me have a say in such things, but I'm not going to disagree with the decision to fire him. Doherty got fired for not being Dean Smith. He was too intense, too histrionic for a program built on the foundation of family and balance. UNC needs a caretaker, not a firebrand. Doherty's a good coach, but he's probably not a good coach for UNC.

Which begs the question, who gets the job? Let's start the Roy Williams rumors! I think he'll take it this time. He let this job slip through his fingers once, primarily so he could coach Hinrich and Collison. If he wins a national title this year, he gets a monkey off his bac and can leave Kansas with a clear conscience. Never blame a guy for going to his alma mater. Then again, this isn't UNC circa 1999, it's Doherty's UNC, coming off another disappointing year. If anything, that might make the job more attractive. Williams can come in not as Replacement but as the new Saviour.
posted by Poseur 4/02/2003 03:56:00 PM

Howland to UCLA

Ben Howland is going to UCLA.

He gets big money, he gets his dream job, he gets a program that will always be nationally prominent, and he gets to take his family home to California.

All that is fine. For Ben Howland.

But Howland leaves behind a bunch of kids who came to Pitt thinking they were going to play four years for him. Howland's seven-year contract only validated those expectations. Pitt's players undoubtedly, and rightfully, feel betrayed.

Well, Pitt is in trouble. Howland's a fantastic coach and he won't be easy to replace. It's a no-brainer for Howland,who has made no secret of his desire to move back to California. He built a program in Pittsburgh, and then leaves them in the lurch before accomplishing anything real. And that sucks for the players and fans of Pitt.

As for UCLA, I wouldn't wish that job on an enemy. Home of unreasonable expectations and (comparatively) low pay, Pauley Pavilion is a place where coaches go to die. The pressure there is absolutely unbelievable, and anything less than consistent national titles will get you canned. No thanks. There's too many good teams, too much depth, to reasonably expect a trip to the Final Four every other year. If it can happen anywhere, UCLA is one of those places, but don't bet the farm on it. Look at how Kentucky fans treat Tubby Smith to get an idea just how big of a pressure cooker Howland is stepping into.

posted by Poseur 4/02/2003 03:47:00 PM

OK, I've been rea critical of the NCAA tournament this year for producing about zero upsets. It was a depressingly dull affair until the last weekend, when all hell broke loose. Which just goes to show me that the tourney is still the greatest American sporting event. Going into Saturday, it was possible to have all four one-seeds in New Orleans, which would be the first time ever that had happened, and counter-intuitive due to the increased parity in college basketball. By 4 PM on Sunday, we were close to having none. that's how quickly the pendulum swung.

Look, Arizona was always overrated. They played disinterested throughout the tourney, and if Blake Stepp hits a wide open 10-footer, Zona's out in the first weekend. Walton's drive to the lane with the game on the line was so damn painful to watch it made me wonder how anyone could believe he was an All-American. They were a good team, but they didn't really have th drive to win it all. Normally I don't put too much stock in that sort of stuff, but Zona was certainly talented, but not talented enough to just cruise by.

Kentucky just got cold-cocked. I really thought they were going to win the whole thing, but Marquette showed what happens when your star player goes Danny Manning on you and the team shoots over 50% from three-point land. Honestly, there wasn't a team in the country who would've beaten Marquette on that day. They were simply awesome.

Oklahoma went down because of matchups. they just couldn't adjust to a defense they hadn't seen all year and shoot over it. Good shooters can break Syracuse's 2-3 zone, but it was like no one ever figured that out. It was sad to see the sooners refuse to adjust their gamelan and continually force bad entry passes into the teeth of the defense.

And we get an incredible Final Four with an upstart (Marquette), a jilted veteran team Kansas), the favorite (Texas), and athletic youngsters on a roll (Cuse). I'm pumped.
posted by Poseur 4/02/2003 03:40:00 PM


Opening Day!

I'll have more later, I'm still thawing out from going to the game. It was cold. that is pretty much all I have to say about it right now.
posted by Poseur 4/01/2003 12:36:00 PM

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