Baseball’s Weird Nostalgia

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Does the guy in this photograph look like one of the best all time players in baseball? Ty Cobb had great numbers, but to say (as ESPN has through both fans and writers) that a guy who played 100 years ago is the 7th best player of all time is absolutely absurd. Besides the massive difference in athleticism, technique, training, and competition from today, Cobb played in a league that banned everyone who wasn’t white.

What kind of messed up nostalgia leads so baseball fans, and many of their writers, to think that Barry Bonds’ numbers deserve an asterisk, but not Ty Cobb’s? Or Babe Ruth’s and Lou Gehrig’s? To many peoples credit, Bonds is getting more support lately–although not from the HOF voters. In this latest poll, he’s ranked 3rd of all time, which is fine I guess. But he’s the only one in the top 10 to have played in the 2000s… and in the 1990s… and in the 1980s. The list is entirely nostalgic. It’s even arguably racist.

Compare that to ESPN’s NBA top ten. 8 of the 10 played in the 1990s or later.

So, why the nostalgia for Ty Cobb in baseball but not Jerry West, George Mikan, or Bob Pettit? Why is Babe Ruth untouchable for a generation of fans who haven’t seen him play, whereas NBA fans can’t be bothered to even think about George Mikan? We’ve all seen Jordan and LeBron, so we know how great they are. And we’ve seen the black and white video of the white guys in short shorts dribbling with their heads down and shooting set shots. But we’ve also seen the pictures of Ty Cobb, the fatness of Babe Ruth, the absurd statistics of guys like Walter Johnson, and the incredible athleticism of modern day players like Bonds, Griffey, Pujols, Trout, and so many others.

It doesn’t make sense to me. I could add the NFL as another league where the modern players are given a lot more preference than the guys who played without helmets. What’s going on with baseball fans and its weird nostalgia for eras that no one can remember?

 

What Big Papi is Doing is Unprecedented, even in the PED Era

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David Ortiz homered again last night. I was at the game, as I had to be. Opportunities to celebrate my two favorite cities and sports teams on the same day and place are too rare.

He homered off Jake Peavy so there should be an asterisk next to this one. But they showed a highlight of him homering off a 2010 Tim Lincecum, so that’s legit.

Papi is 40 years old. In 85 games this year, he has 23 homers, 75 rbis, and 34 doubles with an unprecedented OPS. Extend that over a whole season, and we are looking at 40+ homers, 60+ doubles, and around 130 rbis.

Comparing to the pre ‘roid era: Willie Mays had mostly career lows–18 homers, 61 rbis. Hank Aaron, who had 40 homers at age 39, had only half that the following year. The best I could find (with a cursory glance at the google) was Dave Winfield had a pretty good year; and Ricky Henderson stole 37 bases.

How about in the PED era (should Ricky Henderson be here?): Barry Bonds was hurt during his 40th year. At the age of 39, he hit 45 homers and hit .362. He never recovered entirely after the injury, especially as the witch hunt drove him out of baseball. Steve Finley is one of the most ridiculous examples of the era, hitting a career high 36 homers at the age of 39.

So, what’s going on with Big Papi? On the one hand, is he really dumb enough to ruin his whole legacy with a roid year at the end of his career? He miraculously survived at least one example of him cheating with seemingly no impact. Why’d he risk it again? And exercise and supplements are way better now. Did Hank Aaron even exercise besides an occasional slow trot around the bases? Papi looks great, in as good a shape as ever. He has an amazing approach at the plate, as good as anything I’ve seen since Barry Bonds. Neither of them ever get fooled on pitches, both have perfect balance, and incredibly quick swings.

Is there an, ‘on the other hand?’ Obviously! He’s way too good! He hasn’t had a year nearly this good since he was 30! And maybe that’d even explain why he won’t play again next year–he knows he’s on borrowed time before they find out about some Dominican doctor’s latest undetectable witches brew.

I’ve got no insights here. I’ve always thought most of these guys cheat, just like most of America and the world cheats. And it’s always been fascinating to me, among those who get caught, who gets scorned and who gets no more than a ‘meh’. How are we supposed to explain all the Trump bros who think their guy (whose whole life is predicated on lying, cheating, and stealing) is a hero while Hillary Clinton is the devil?

David Ortiz has the charm and legendary clutch-ness to have allowed him to so far avoid too much scrutiny. He’s been the face of Boston for more than a decade, maybe the most popular sports figure there since…Larry Bird? There are reasons we should believe him, and I’m going to choose to do so.

Why the Celtics will win the NBA championship in 2017

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Four reasons the Celtics will win this upcoming season.

First, Draymond Green:  He seems like a great guy, and his latest issue in a bar in Michigan that led to his arrest seems pretty small potatoes given that no one got hurt. How often are there bar fights? C’mon. Still… Draymond needs to start deciding that he isn’t going to be Ron Artest or Dennis Rodman. Something is going to go wrong this year for the Warriors, and #1 on the list has to be Draymond imploding or at least becoming a big enough distraction to the team that he needs to be traded in a rush for Jonas Jerebko and draft considerations. Yes, I still can’t get over Chris Webber being traded for Rony Seikaly. Warriors are going to mess this up somehow.

Second, Klay Thompson: He’s going to sulk. After emerging this year as the best 2 guard in the league, he’s now going to be potentially the fourth guy (and fourth option because the ball will be going through Draymond’s hands much more frequently). I think he wants more than that and he under-performs and gets traded next off season in a panic move.

With the Warriors out of the picture, the only issue left is the Celtics beating the Cavaliers. Here’s reason’s three and four for why they will.

Third, Celtics Defense: When the Celtics have a lineup of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, and Al Horford, they will have an insane defensive lineup. And with lots of guys who can take turns guarding LeBron. Olynyk takes care of Love, and I like all the guard play against Kyrie. What’s left for Cleveland with their big 3 neutralized? They lost Delly and Mozgov. JR won’t be allowed to play without a shirt. Celtics are good. The problem is that none of these guys can really score with any consistency. And I still think Thomas is best as a 6th man. So, what they need is:

Fourth, Russell Westbrook: He’s the missing ingredient to championship glory. I know people are concerned he won’t sign after the season. He will sign and stay with the Celtics. Why? Because he can’t leave Boston after a year in which he wins both the regular season and Finals MVP. And because the Lakers are going to be so bad, he can’t possibly go there instead. But mostly because he will be the leading scorer on the defending champion Celtics.

Reservations About Durant, from a Warrior Fan’s Perspective

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I’m not worried about too many shooters with only one ball. And I’m not worried about team chemistry, or lack of team depth, or anything like that. Durant is going to fit in great.  The Warriors are going to be awesome and they are not just going to score a million 3s, they are going to make two million layups from all the backdoor cuts through stretched defenses. Kudos to the Warriors for getting him, kudos to KD for making the tough move to leave OKC, kudos to the rest of the death lineup for being so selfless and recruiting him.

My reservations are that this is going to make it too easy, and it’s going to remove the great satisfaction that comes from not just winning, but winning with great performances from a great team at a moment when nothing less that absolute greatness is necessary. There will never be a game as satisfying as Klay Thompson’s game 6 against OKC or even Steph’s game 5 against the Cavs last year (when he put the $9.5 million dollar a year Dellavedova away with signature crossovers). The Warriors have little left to prove and great performances may no longer be needed. Now, they are so good that the only pressure is in choking. Just play average, and you’re a champion.

And when it happens, I’ll celebrate. But not like game 6 against OKC. Instead, I’ll likely celebrate as I did when the Niners beat the Chargers in the Superbowl by about 100 points in 1995. Remember that one? The Niners nemesis was the Cowboys and they had some great rivalry games. When the Cowboys seemed to have the upper-hand, the Niners went and got one of the Cowboys stars–Dion Sanders. With Sanders, everything was very easy. They blew everyone out and restored the championship to San Francisco.

Steve Young said it got the monkey off his back, giving him his big Superbowl win–and I guess it did and that’s how he’s remembered. If Durant doesn’t want to be Karl Malone, then the Steve Young model is a good one.

But Young won that season without ever having to make a pressure play. Seems to me that the way you become truly legendary is by winning the toughest of games when you are down. Montana did it. Rice did it. Klay Thompson did it. Madison Bumgarner did it. All the top basketball greats have had such a moment and LeBron’s finally came this year. I’m sure that Eli reminds Peyton about this at the family Thanksgiving. No one cares if you are the winning QB because of a great defense.

I’m not sure Durant’s going to get a chance to do it. I’m wondering for how long people are going to peg Curry as someone who didn’t play biggest in the biggest of games. It might be unfair because he has had some great big games. But still, his most epic game is probably the OKC regular season game. Not quite the same thing.

If all goes accordingly next year, the Warriors emphatically beat the Cavs Celtics in 5 games, and Curry and KD take turns hitting open jumpers (I’m guessing that Thompson takes 8 shots and asks to be traded after the season), and it’s great. It really is. But I think the highest moments of this Warriors team may have come and gone.

And for the Bay Area (my Bay Area, which means a south bay fan who supported mostly SF teams and not the Raiders and A’s and doesn’t know about anything before the 80s), it means that Joe Montana is going to stay #1 in the legendary category, followed by Madison Bumgarner, followed by Tim Lincecum. All three were their teams singular stars who put the team on their back and won the closing game with greatness. Klay Thompson gets an honorable mention, so does Steph Curry, and even Draymond got really close in game 7. But I think the Warriors lost their chance to have another moment like that and that’s why I’m not so happy today.


Of course sports are weird and all sorts of things can happen. Maybe Zaza will end up being the biggest move of the off-season. Maybe the Knicks will win with a revived Rose and Anthony. Three potential twists that would make next year really exciting.

  1. Celtics get Westbrook. The NBA needs to make this happen. Westbrook v. Durant in the finals is must see tv and the only thing that can save the season. The Warriors will still crush the Celtics, but Westbrook will single-handedly take the C’s to the brink while simultaneously blowing critical 3 minute stretches when he turns the ball over repeatedly and misses 4 wild shots while failing to pass the ball to Jerebko despite being triple teamed.
  2. Cavaliers get Wade. Obvious. They won’t win, but it will be fun to watch the old guys (LeBron included) go down as old guys do–chippy. Get Paul Pierce on the Cavs while their at it.
  3. The Clippers get to the western conference finals. The Warriors will sweep them, but it will still be really satisfying. The bigger the blowouts, the more whining by Blake and CP, the better. There will be nothing fun watching the Warriors sweep the aging and graceful Spurs. Nothing.

I was really hoping for the Hawks

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My stalwart brother in homerism, Paul has lost his mind. We cannot beat the Cavs. They are the Rancor Monster from Return of the Jedi and we are the pig faced guard that accidentally fell into the pit with Luke. I love our guys but they will be promptly eaten by the monster in the room. They had a great run and they may steal a game. With the turmoil in Atlanta, we had a punchers chance with the ATL. Lebron? Kyrie? It’s going to take the whole squad breaking JR Smith’s “At the Club” rules to swing this in the Green Machine’s favor. It’s been fun.

Here’s hoping Isaiah Thomas finds Luke’s Return of the Jedi (green, no less) lightsaber.

Holy Luigi! The Celtics have forgotten how to lose!

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Luigi, Jonas, and Kelly were the 3 leading scorers tonight. Rest the stars and it doesn’t matter. The Celtics can play with anyone. Anyone. (Anyone in the eastern conference, especially when LeBron James is sitting).

Anyone else see visions of Butler running all the way to the finals? Brad Stevens is our new hero. Either he’s the difference maker or its Jae Crowder. I’m open to either possibility.

It’s homer time. Race for 8 became Soar for 7. Or Next Train to Cleveland. No hyperbole, I think the Celtics can beat the Cavs. They are next year’s Atlanta Hawks, but I think next year has already started.

The outlook is getting rosey

0409_droseI don’t know who roots against D-Rose. We all want him back, even though that would mean he will be eviscerating our beloved Celtics on the regular. I don’t think he will ever be a good basketball player again. That is just not possible. However, a last stand might happen. He could shake off some of the rust we saw last night and catch fire in a weak East. (Ha! The WeakEast Conference. #weeping) Rose cut to the hoop last night like the old days. Yeah, he turned the ball over. Yeah, he looked nervous. However, that cut to the hoop made me smile. That cut was a warning to everyone in the East.

Speaking of good dudes we root for. Paul George might get back to All Star form some day. (The shadiness that went down with Chris Copeland may derail that good story. Nothing good happens after 2am.) I hope the Pacers bounce the Nets out of the 8th spot. Man, what a dull team Brooklyn turned out to be. Even their owner is a letdown. I thought there’d be more jetskis.