Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Non-Baseball Post About the Colts

The Fan has been irked all week by a team that he hates anyway. Okay, let the Fan paint this picture for you. Say C. C. Sabathia is pitching for the Yankees on the fourth to last game of the season. The Yankees have already won the division and the best record in the American League is in the bag. Sabathia is your big stud for the playoffs. So he starts this game and your plan as a manager is to let him pitch five innings to get his work in and then get him out of there. But Sabathia does the unthinkable and pitches five perfect innings. Perhaps he has even struck out fourteen of the fifteen batters he's faced. He has a perfect game going and a chance to break the all time strikeout record in a game. Do you still take him out after five innings?

Heck no! It's history! He goes for the perfect game and stays in there to see if he can get history. Taking him out of there is what the Colts did to Peyton Manning and his team. The guys had thrown a perfect game to that point. They were 14-0. Do you think the Patriots would rest Tom Brady? Heck no. History is on the line here.

If a player is going to lose history, you let him do it himself with his own effort. If Manning went on to lose the game. Fine. At least he had his own shot at it and came up short. Everyone would have patted him on the back and said, "Nice try." But to take his shot at history away from him was criminal.

The Fan has always....ALWAYS rooted against Peyton Manning. Not because the guy isn't likable. All of his commercials seem like he is a fun guy. His work with his brother with young kids in Louisiana in the off season seems admirable. But the guy is a thorn in the Fan's favorite team's side. You just know the Colts are going to be there at the end and that they have to be beaten to get where a team wants to go. That's how good he is. That's how good he has been.

But Manning has been like Greg Maddux on the Braves. As good as he was, they only won the big prize once. The Colts have only won the big prize once during Manning's amazing career. But this year was a chance for magic. For history. This year was an opportunity for Manning to put a rubber stamp on the title of best quarterback ever. This year was his chance to shine brighter than Brady or Unitis or all the other great quarterbacks in history. And it was taken away from him. For what exactly? To keep him safe?

Please. The guy gets sacked and hit fewer times than any quarterback in history. He consistently has the best offensive line in football. There is a reason for that. If you give the best quarterback in the world time to go to work, he will kill you.

And there is a mind game at work here as well. The Fan used to be a really good bowler. Don't laugh, it was a lot of fun and very profitable. The Fan made enough money bowling to buy his first computer and a washer and dryer. The Fan had several runs at a perfect game (300 or twelve straight strikes). The Fan had started the game several times with ten straight strikes and was within two of getting there. By then the match is over, right? The other guy is just shaking his head knowing he is beat, so that isn't the issue. Since the match is over, should the Fan just throw the thing in the gutter?

Man, no way, the Fan felt like he could do no wrong. He felt on top of the universe. He felt like all the planets were aligned and all the practice and hard work had led to this. The Fan went for it. Never got there. Had several 279s which means that one pin didn't go down on the eleventh shot. But there was no way anyone was going to take that moment away.

The Colts took that moment away from their players. They took it away from their fans. They took it away from their opponents who saw them as unbeatable before the loss. The bottom line is that every participant in sports wants to control their own destiny and have a chance to make history. If things fall short, well that's sports. But Manning and company were denied destiny and it's terrible. For a team the Fan loves to root against, the Fan sure feels awful for them. It's not just a shame. It's a crime against sports.

Baseball is a Sport of Names

Football is king right now. The sport is at the epicenter of its season and it deservedly has our attention and our devotion. It's a great sport. There is nothing better than flipping on the television on a Sunday and watching a couple of great games. But again, football is a game of now. Its past does not resonate like baseball's past. Think that statement is wrong? Go to or and count how many baseball blogs there are compared to football blogs. Perhaps that will change in the future. Baseball has always been a passed down love. Fathers and sons (and daughters too). The popularity of football may overtake that passing down effect. But for now, it is baseball's past that resonates with fans just as much as the present: much more so than football. One test of that theory is to think about names. Where is the Babe Ruth of football? The Lou Gehrig? Sure there is Johnny Unitis (isn't it telling that this writer isn't sure how his name is spelled?). Other than Bronco Nogorski (if even that is spelled right), the names of the football past don't bring smiles of recognition like baseball's past names.

That incredibly long and irksome opening paragraph was supposed to lead into a fond look at some old baseball names. Perhaps if you made it beyond that paragraph, you'll still enjoy this little journey. The Fan loves the game of baseball and this off season has already been fun to watch and the new season is out there beckoning like a spring basket for Easter. But let's take a little trip through some names that come to mind in stream of conscious fashion.

One of the all-time favorites is Harmon Killebrew. First, those of you who enjoy a brew now and then would love to kill a few here and there. But the guy was this big burly bruiser who could crush a baseball. So the guy could Harm you or Kill you or both. He was a killer. On the other end of the scale was Mike Pagliarulo. Of course, you just called him, "Pags." Pags had a couple of decent years, but his career was just like his name sounds--workman-like. Born in Medford, Massachusetts, Pags was just an every day joe who made us proud once in a while.

Who could forget the tandom of Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek? It was Kirby and Herby, remember? Puckett is remembered more because of his flamboyance, but Hrbek was a good player with a career 128 OPS+ and a career fielder with 15.7 runs above average. They were great and their team won the World Series.

How about Sandy Koufax? Sandy didn't seem to fit, but it came from his, "Sanford," first name. But what a name and what memories! And the legend goes on and on. How many Hall of Famers finished their careers with their best season?

All this writer needs to type is: "Dave Henderson," and many of you can picture him, right? That slouchy kind of run? That walk-off homer to win the playoff series? The way he flipped the ball after the last out of an inning? Ah yes.

Nothing else needs to be said after typing, "Yogi Berra," or "The Splendid Splinter," or "Ducky Medwick," or "Dizzy Dean," but how about Jerry Koosman or Ron Kittle or La Marr Hoyt? You can still picture them if you are over 35 years of age, right? If you are little older, the lights will go on if the names Jimmy Wynn, Denis Menke and John Mayberry are mentioned too.

The Fan knows you'll remember Dan Quisenberry and his submarine pitching. He used to pitch 140 innings a season when he was a closer. A career 140 ERA+ isn't shabby either. And all the Fan had to say was, "Quiz," and you would have known.

Of course, if you are as old as the Fan, you'll have a smile of a memory with the names of Manny Mota or Bob Veale. And all the Fan would have to say would be, "Jesus, Felipe and Matty," and you would know those three brothers, right? Isn't it great remembering they all played in the same outfield for the Giants?

If you are a little younger, you'll remember the great Brewers' team with Pete Vuckovich, Randy Lerch and Cecil Cooper along with Robin Yount of course. You might even remember Rollie Fingers as their closer. You might even remember the Toronto team of 1989 that came within a whisker of glory with Ernie Whitt, Fred McGriff (the Crime Dog), Tony Fernandez, Kelly Gruber, Dave Stieb and George Bell. And if you do, you'll also remember John Cerutti!

The Fan could go on and on. The point is that the past is alive for those of us who love this game. The present is a gas, but looking back is full of smiles and recognition. Yeah, the Fan can remember Bullet Bob Hayes and Raymond Berry and other football names. But they don't strike a chord quite like Mookie Wilson can.

Happy New Year everyone.