Sunday, January 6, 2008

Nate's Monday Sports Extravaganza!

Cleaning up Baseball

Hall of Fame voting results will be announced Tuesday, so let’s forget Barry Bonds for a while. Ditto Mark McGwire. And Roger Clemens.

It’s time to make amends with some real Hall of Famers.

Alan Trammell. Lou Whitaker. Jim Rice. Tommy John. Bert Blyleven. Dave Concepcion. Goose Gossage. Dale Murphy. Jack Morris. Don Mattingly. Andre Dawson. Joe Carter.

What about these guys?

If you’re a statistics junkie, you probably don’t care for baseball in the 1970s. Ditto for the 80s. Both decades favored the pitcher. 35 home runs were enough to lead the league. 100 RBI meant MVP consideration. 50 homers was an aberration.

What do all the players listed above have in common? All played in one or both of those two decades. All were considered among the best of their generation. Every one of them was an all-star. All, in my opinion, belong in Cooperstown.

And not a one of them has been linked to steroids.

Baseball is emerging from its Chemical Age, where home runs were not the exception, but the norm. No doubt the gaudy statistics of the 90s and early part of the new millennium have influenced the Hall of Fame voting. Vote for shortstop Alan Trammell, when Alex Rodriguez is good for 50 homers a year at the same position? Trammell topped twenty only twice in his career.

But these players played the game the right way (this is not an accusation of A-Rod, for the record). They played hard and they played at a high level for a long time. They were the elite of their generation. They were the class of the league.

Isn’t that what Cooperstown is all about?

Trammell has only been retired for 11 seasons. Doesn’t anyone remember how good he was? Whitaker last played in 1995. Seems like no one talks these days about all the gold gloves he and Trammell won when they were the American League’s best double play combination. And the World Series winner they played on in ’84. All the Gold Gloves. The All-Star games.

Instead of indulging Roger Clemens’ horseshit about vitamin B-12 injections, why not focus on long-time Hall of Fame snubee, Blyleven? All he did in 22 seasons was win 287 games, good for 26th all-time. He won two world series, and was a superb postseason pitcher, going 4-1 lifetime in eight starts with a sparkling 2.47 ERA. He used one of the most devastating curveballs in history to strike out over 3,700 batters.

He did it all without steroids.

I’m not going to lay out my case for all these terrific ballplayers, and I can certainly see where some of them are borderline Hall of Famers. I just think their achievements should glow all the brighter in light of recent revelations. Maybe honoring a couple of them would help the healing process along.

Browns

Congrats to the Browns for their 10 win season. They are much improved, but remain, alas, pretty bad. Don’t be surprised to see a much better team win about the same amount of games next year, when the schedule will be a lot tougher.

McBone All Stars for the 2007-08 season: Josh Cribbs, Joe Thomas, Phil Dawson, Eric Steinbach, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, Jamal Lewis.

Runnners up: Derek Anderson, Joe Jurevicius, D’Qwell Jackson.

McBone MVP: Cribbs. The Browns’ explosive offense began with the great field position Cribbs gave them, every single game. Cribbs is the Browns’ best special teams tackler and the best return man in team history. Not bad for an undrafted free agent from Kent State.

McBone LVP: Ted Washington. The globulous mass of a nose tackle was the poster boy for all that is wrong with the Browns’ defense, which, except for undersized, overachieving D'Qwell Jackson, is not represented on the McBone All-Star team.

Some might say that Anderson deserves All Star, or even MVP consideration, but I say he peaked around midseason and then faded. Derek Anderson, I repeat, is just keeping it warm. May he prove me wrong.

Cavaliers

I am happy to report that the Cavs have surged back to respectability, and stand at an even 17-17. They have done so to the tune of 5 wins in 6 games.

How did this happen with two starting guards, Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic, who can’t buy a make?

It’s called DEFENSE. And caring. The two are directly related. When this team cares about winning, it defends. I mean, why not defend, when that’s what got you to the finals last year?

Now, to break down the recent winning trend in more detail:

Anderson Varejao has officially found his legs. He is playing like a man possessed, even showing off some offensive ability. Still, it’s his defense that makes him one of the best reserves in the league. You want Drew Gooden starting games and Anderson finishing them. That formula has been a winner for three seasons. If he stays healthy, Varejao will get his big contract, from someone.

LeBron is playing like he did before the damned knuckle injury. He is the best player in the league. Sorry Kevin Garnett. Sorry, Kiwi.

Big Z continues to be the best offensive rebounder in the league.

Daniel Gibson is burning off the bench, where he belongs, at least in this stage of his career.

Devin Brown brings big time hustle on both ends of the court. In more than one game, his all-out effort turned the tide in a win. He’s not the most skilled guy on the team, but hustle is contagious. See Anderson Varejao.

The frontcourt has three players averaging 8 rebounds or more, with LeBron just a notch below.

There are still some creases to iron out. Sasha will find his shot again. I guarantee it. Maybe Larry Hughes will find a rhythm, though I doubt it. There is still no truly reliable ballhandler besides LeBron.

Still, there is a chemistry developing again, and not a moment too soon. Fifty wins may not be in the cards, but this is a team built for winning when it counts. By the time the playoffs roll around, the Cavs should be ready.

nwb

Pictured above: Bert Blyleven as a Pittsburgh Pirate, sans red beard and featuring the classic Pirates pillbox hat.

2 comments:

Slates said...

Glad to hear someone else thinks Tram should be in the HOF. When compared to the other 21 Hall of Fame shortstops, here is where he would rank: AVG-11, OBP-11, SLG-9, H-10, HR-4, RBI-10, R-13, SB-10. He was a 6 time all-star, won 4 gold gloves and was the MVP of the 84 world series.

Put him in the Hall!!!

Nate and Jeff Bowler, Co-Captains said...

Don't forget Sweet Lou. The two came up together, played roughly 20seasons in the same infield and retired with nearly identical statistics.

Trammell: 20 seasons, 2,365 hits, 412 2B, 55 3B, 185 HR, .285 BA, .415 SLG%

Whitaker: 19 seasons, 2,369 hits, 420 2B, 65 3B, 244 HR, .276 BA,
.426 SGL%

Whitaker won 3 gold gloves himself, and played in 5 all-star games. Put them both in the hall.