Posts Tagged ‘Hall of Fame’

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One of prized possessions.

By: Matthew Kohl
Email: virtualsportsman@gmail.com
Twitter: @virtuallymatt

Baseball will sorely miss Chipper Jones. In one player you had one of the ten best third basemen in history, arguably one of the top three switch hitters in history, an MVP, a World Series Champion, an eight time all-star, a batting title winner, a surefire Hall of Famer, and one of the few players who had no problem taking a lower paying contract to stay and help his team. The Braves really had a top tier guy with Jones and they were lucky to have him and keep him for 19 seasons. Just ask Todd Van Poppel.

The MLB was lucky to have him as well. With all the performance enhancing what-have-yous and ugly ugly UGLY things going on in baseball and professional sports in general in the last 20 years, players of Chipper’s ilk are a heavenly shining light of hope for a game slowly losing public interest to other less classy endeavors. Jones’ retirement makes professional baseball a little less comfortable and a lot less polished. I’m not saying that baseball needs spotless players who keep a Clark Kent lifestyle and share his sense of truth, justice, and yada yada yada, but I cannot stress enough that it’s becoming harder to find those types in the sea of douchebaggery that seems to have invaded professional sports. When a juiced up ass like Alex Rodriguez is paid more than a consistently productive stand up player like Chipper Jones, it means that there are many misplaced priorities in the sport.

I had said in a previous article that my first baseball team love was the Atlanta Braves. I literally began following baseball in a serious way in 1990. It may be just a coincidence that Chipper Jones was the first overall pick in the 1990 draft, but baseball is a superstitious beast. Who am I to say it wasn’t fate that the beginning of my interest in baseball wasn’t destined to parallel the start of such an auspicious career? I’m pretty sure at this point that I’m coming off like a Chipper Jones super fan, but to an extent I am. Jones started playing for the Braves organization at the time when my baseball senses were at their highest. This, like many, was when I was a child with  rookie cards and all and it didn’t hurt that TBS broadcasted every single Braves game into my living room. How else does a kid from Illinois get to name Tom Glavine as his favorite pitcher of all time? It sure as hell wasn’t from watching him play with the Mets. I’m a huge fan of what I can see and I saw more of the Atlanta Braves between 1990 and 1999 than any other team in baseball. I felt the sting of loss in 1992 and the immense joy of victory 1995. I still consider myself lucky to have been able to see a decent amount of Chipper’s MVP season in 1999. After that cable got a bit too expensive.

After that I was forced to watch the Cubs.

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I continued to follow as best as I could, but to be perfectly honest I lost track of the man for a while. I was surprised to find him still there when I heard he won the NL batting title in 2008. Then when I came back to baseball for good a few years ago I found he was still waiting for me. He was still in the same uniform and he was still great. It’s hard to imagine another player doing the same thing in this era of big dollar free agents and inflated egos. I assumed a solid consistent player like ol’ Chipper would seep through the cracks and decline as his career went on but he hadn’t.

Chipper Jones IS a Hall of Fame player. In the truest sense of it. When his name hits the ballot in five years, there won’t be any doubt about his chances. There won’t be any questions about his character. No one will be saying “he’s just getting in because there’s nobody worth voting for this time.” They won’t wait until he dies to say yes.

There will be no asterisk mentioned.

I’m hoping he won’t be the last player we can say those things about. Let’s face it. If there’s a question about a player, then the Hall of Fame shouldn’t be the answer. I hope sports writers will think of Chipper Jones just a little bit when they vote for the 2013 inductees. It’s a high bar to set, but it’s worth raising our standards if it means we get to keep the integrity of the game of baseball intact.

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We can call this new standard “The Chipper Line.”

He probably didn’t even say it. He wouldn’t dare. Would he?

This is not even a conversation. The fact that all this time is being wasted on a fruitless endeavor is sort o pissing me off. Basketball fans: it should piss you off, too. I don’t care if you’re the biggest Kobe fan in the world. Your only excuse to be on board with any of this is if you are under the age of…no, there is no excuse.

The beautiful thing about Kobe Bryant opening up his big mouth to say that 2012’s USA Basketball team could beat the original Dream Team is that there is actually no way to prove him right or wrong. It’s all speculation and competitive banter, but the part I don’t like is the disregard for the sanctity of the Dream Team. Up until this point, everyone has had the common courtesy and decency to concede to the Dream Team as the undisputed greatest basketball, no greatest period, team ever assembled.

As the anointed leader of the current Dream Teamers, this is another case of Kobe being Kobe.  I like that he’s reverting back to his former, 18 year old self-talking shit, allowing his ego to get the best of him, claiming supremacy in an area that no one can actually discredit him. He’s really just stirring up shit. What are his motives though?

Ed. Note – Oh you bet your ass Kobe is kicking it old school:
[youtube http://youtu.be/4uG8ubgvSSQ]

Uniquely American in every regard, only here in the States would you have a younger generation team showing up such a national treasure. Around the world, respect for one’s elders is considered a given, but not here. This is our sport. Basketball is ours, but show some respect. In the timeless and elegant words of  Westside Connection: bow down.

My initial reaction to Kobe’s proclamation was that of disgust mixed with a bit of shock. He said what? And LeBron backed him up, saying what about athleticism? Ate these jokesters for real? Maybe they thought the question was, “Can you beat the original Dream Team now, as in not them in their prime back in ’92 but now as middle aged men?” I think the ’92 squad would still give them a run…

Then I dug a little deeper, and I wanted to know more about not what Kobe said, but rather, why he would say it. Many of today’s top NBA talent doesn’t even make up their roster. The Dream Team consisted of the greatest players to ever play the game. Ever. Forever. For-ever-ever. For-ever-ever! Kobe needs to play the role of motivator, and that’s cool. But come on. Ignite the competitive fire at practice the way MJ would. Don’t make ridiculous claims like this. Lead by example on the court.

Th problem with this debate is that the rest of the world has caught up to us on the basketball stage, proven by our Athenian Bronze medal in 2004. When the 2012 squad blows teams out by an average of 40+ points, then a real debate can begin. Granted, they whooped the Dominican Republic last night by 50+, but their star is a 16 year old who’ll be a sophomore next year…in high school. So, they’re on pace after one game. We’ll see. Records are made to be broken, but legacies last a lifetime.

WWMJS? What would Michael Jordan say? He’s the most competitive person ever to walk the earth and soar its skies, so I’m sure he’s got something to say. The only competition the Dream Team faced was that of its own scrimmages, so it’s sort of fitting that its only competition twenty years later remains kept in the American family. By the way, Jordan just laughed off Kobe’s comments. Sounds about right. It is a laughable argument.

Bottom line: the Dream Team is and always will be superior. They’re the only team in the Hall of Fame for a reason.

If you somehow insanely disagree, chew on this:

Tyson Chandler looks to be the starting center. The Dream Team had Patrick Ewing and David Robinson, for crying out loud. Jordan is better than Kobe. Magic is better than LeBron. Scottie is better than LeBron. Stockton is better than Chris Paul. Barkley is better than any power forward on 2012’s team. Same goes for Karl Malone. And Bird is better than Durant and Carmelo Anthony, although Bird wasn’t Bird when sandman entered and The Dream Team dominated. I’d also like to point out the number of championships won, collectively, by both teams. OG Dream Team: Jordan’s 6, Scottie’s 6, Magic’s 5, Bird’s 3, The Admiral’s 2. That’s 22.

2012: Kobe’s 5, Chandler’s 1 from last year, and LeBron’s current 1. That’s a paltry total of 7, just 1 more than Jordan alone. NCAA Championships? Anthony’s got the only one for 2012. Jordan, Magic, Ewing, and Laettner (twice) all won it at the college level. But these accomplishments mean nothing to Kobe. He just thinks that if they played for 48 minutes, that his squad could win. Forget about the accomplishments, but they’re impossible to ignore.

Future Hall of Famers? Dream Team has 11 enshrined in The Hall. ’12 has future inductees in Kobe, LeBron, probably Durant and Paul when it’s all said and done. ‘Melo? No. Chandler? LOLz. 4 future HOFers by my count. Sorry Kobe, but you sound like Skip Bayless on this one. You’re just spouting bullshit to start a conversation. Well, there’s no conversation to be had here. This is a closed case, Mamba. But I’ll be more than happy when they get the technology ready for all 24 of you knuckleheads to hit the hardwood as holograms to settle the (non)debate once and for all. Then all sports conversations cease to exist, something I don’t totally welcome. Having opinions, disagreeing, proving yourself with memorized statistics and facts; these are a few of my favorite sports things. So let’s hear what you’ve got to say about USA Basketball, because we’ve regained supremacy. And that makes me happy as a fan of basketball and the Olympics. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Something I’ve wondered since I was like 10 years old though: why wasn’t Shaq on the squad instead of Christian Laettner? I mean, I’m sure his historic college career as arguably the best college baller ever (and Coach K) had something to do with it, but can you retrospectively imagine that now? A team filled to the brim with 12 Hall of Famers instead of only 11…

The SaniTERRYum XII: An Essay for Asterisks

The asterisk remains a mysterious mistress in sports. She only shows up on stats and achievements if something out of the ordinary is determined to be by the powers that be. Late game not included. Steroid Era. Pete Rose. Strikes, lockouts and the like. LeBron’s first title? Oh, definitely an asterisk next to that shortened season Miami championship.

This isn’t even coming from the Heat hater, die-hard Bulls fan in me. This is just me keeping it 100. A 66 game season culminating in a ‘chip does not a champion make. Well, technically it does, but with an asterisk next to it in the books…a permanent asterisk. As much as I admire the Spurs, their run in ’99 falls into the same asterisk-ridden category. It’s just not the same if 82 games aren’t played. Hence, the permanence of the ever-lingering, ever-annoying asterisk. You can debate the asterisk all you want, but it’s not going anywhere. It’s as much a part of legitimizing an accomplishment as it is from taking away its legs to stand on in a world of amputees.

Everything LeBron has done in the L has been legitimate. We don’t need to talk about anyone taking their talents anywhere. We don’t need to talk about the receding hairline. We don’t need to discuss the 4th quarter meltdowns of yesteryear. The man is the best player on the planet right now, possessing a skill set mashed with athleticism the NBA has never seen. But I’m sorry, asterisk applied to his first championship. I can hear the so-called Miami Heat fans now:  “It took him so long to get here, and now this fucking jerk off writer from Chicago who’s still bitter about the Derrick Rose injury wants to diminish what LeBron and Co. have worked so hard for?” Hey, don’t hate the player. Hate the game. Asterisk stands.

The LeBron-imposed asterisk would have gone to whomever the NBA crowned champion this year. That comes with the territory of any sports’ lockout, strike, holdout, or any other new way greedy players and owners can find to prevent us, the fans, from enjoying a full, asterisk-free season. And you can bet your bottom dollar, us fans would love to live in an asterisk-free sports world.

On the topic of betting bottom dollars: Pete Rose, in many ways, personifies the asterisk, a walking asterisk, if you will. He has become the victim of an opinionated asterisk, possibly the worst kind of typographical symbol there is. Bud Selig has sort of made it his life mission to keep Charlie Hustle out of The Hall, which makes me wonder: “Does Bud have a running bet with someone somewhere on an over/under for years it’ll take to get the all-time hits leader (among many other records) into Cooperstown?”

“Dive in head first. Like Pete Rose.”

Although Bud’s not alone: On February 4, 1991, the Hall of Fame voted formally to exclude individuals on the permanently ineligible list from being inducted into the Hall of Fame by way of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Rose is the only living member of the ineligible list. Players who were not selected by the BWAA could be considered by the Veterans Committee in the first year after they would have lost their place on the Baseball Writers’ ballot. Under the Hall’s rules, players may appear on the ballot for only fifteen years, beginning five years after they retire. Had he not been banned from baseball, Rose’s name could have been on the writers’ ballot beginning in 1992 and ending in 2006. He would have been eligible for consideration by the Veterans Committee in 2007, but did not appear on the ballot. In 2008 the Veterans Committee barred players and managers on the ineligible list from consideration.

What’s the BFD here? It’s not like he was betting against his team and then throwing shit intentionally. “I bet on my team every night. I didn’t bet on my team four nights a week. I bet on my team to win every night because I loved my team, I believed in my team.” Those sound like the words of a competitor, someone who truly cares about winning, a real gamer. Why shouldn’t he make a little dough on the side? I mean, MLB players’ salaries barely allow one to scrape by, so by all means…

“Do you wanna know the terrifying truth or do you wanna watch me sock a few  dingers?”
-Mark McGwire to Bart Simpson

We are all tired of performance enhancing drugs taking over the sport we love, hijacking the headlines. When I look at the list of baseball players I grew up watching who are now all but blackballed from ever receiving the slightest bit of consideration to top anyone’s HOF ballot, let alone make it in,  it brings a heaping pile of bullshit on fire to my front door. Absolute flaming bullshit. I’ll always have Ken Griffey, Jr. and Frank Thomas though…

Guys have been cheating the game for ages, but now that we’ve evolved into drug-taking, performance enhancers, now you want to blow the whistle? The eligible players on this year’s ballot is mind-blowing when you step away and realize that most, if not all, will remain Cooperstown outsiders…possibly forever. Bonds. Sosa. The Rocket. Piazza. Big names, and that’s leaving out perennial snubs McGwire, Palmeiro, and the rest of the renounced hardball heroes turned ‘roid ragers. Barry Bonds has more to worry about than asterisks, though. By the way, can someone explain to me how the fuck Royce Clayton found himself onto the ballot?

The steroid and human growth hormone, performance enhancing goes far beyond baseball and stretches into the world of track and field, football, the Olympics, and the, wait for it, Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong: what a let-down after so much build up and feel-goodery. The man beats cancer like 200 times, takes over a French-dominated, absolutely enduring event and hope is restored to the humanity of sports. Then it all comes crashing down amongst allegations of PED peddling. Really, Lance? You? Say it ain’t so! Marion Jones gets an asterisk, jail time, AND community service. She was dubbed the fastest woman alive, but she has been stripped of her medals won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I’m sure she would have been just fine with an asterisk next to her name in history, but the asterisk only has so much power. We could all learn a thing or two from LeBron James and Pete Rose: just hustle and work hard to get where you’re going. You don’t need to shoot steroids in your butt.

*Late Game Not Included

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Junior Seau, CTE and where this all may lead

On Monday, future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger, ending his own life at age 43. This is eerily similar to how former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson took his own life in February of 2011. Duerson left a note saying he intentionally left his brain intact so it could be studied for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE. It’s a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to violent contact sports like football and hockey. Repeated blows to the head in these, and other, sports are suspected to directly lead to CTE, which in turn causes the victim to suffer from memory loss, depression, confusion and aggressive behavior. Obviously, suicidal tendencies are also a symptom and unfortunately, sometimes the last symptom.

With the recent deaths of hockey players considered “enforcers”, Rick Rypien, a CTE victim who committed suicide, the possible suicide of Wade Belak, a depression sufferer, and the overdose of Derek Boogaard, also a depression sufferer and CTE victim, the hockey community has been seriously questioning the role of enforcers in the game as its becoming apparent the constant punches to the head may be directly linked to CTE. Considering the relative youth of these 3 players…Rypien was 27, Boogaard was 28 and Belak was 35…the crippling effects of CTE manifesting itself in such young men is truly frightening. If getting into fights on the ice is linked to CTE, what the hell is the game of football doing to others?

Virtually every play in football ends with a high-speed collision between at least two people…at least one of which is moving at full speed. From the first time a youngster puts on the pads and taps into that neanderthal gene that says “RRRAAAAAHHHHHRRRRRR!!!! HULK SMASH!!!!” they are subjecting themselves to the very real possibility of injuring their brain on a constant basis until the day they stop playing the game, be it one play later or when they retire from pro football. The damage done to a brain from a violent concussion can never be trusted to fully heal and the medical data supporting that conclusion gets bigger with every study done on the brain.

When do parents around the world finally say, “Not my child” and refuse to allow them to participate in sports where the risk for brain injury is so great? I’m not advocating one side over the other here, just asking that very important question….”When”? I’m certain that many parents out there won’t give a shit about anything that’s come to light and will keep enrolling their kids in these sports and will continue to scream encouragement from the stands when little Johnny plants a crushing hit on the son of another set of parents. They’ll yell “SHAKE IT OFF, RUB SOME DIRT ON IT AND GET BACK OUT THERE” even when it’s their kid on the sideline, woozy and nauseous from receiving a similar hit, even when their coaches insist they watch from the sideline until they’re cleared by a doctor to return to game action. I’m not sure where this is leading for the future of these sports, but I’m sure controversy will abound.

The Cubs and the Farm System

On a lighter note….Yeah, the Cubs suck hard this season and probably will in 2013 as well. While this is nothing new for us Cubs fans, what is new is there’s an actual plan to improve via the farm system. Let’s take a look at my top 5 prospects…

1. Anthony Rizzo, 1B The prize of the Adrian Gonzalez to Boston deal, the Cubs somehow heisted The Riz (That’s MINE and I expect royalties when he wins his first MVP and everyone calls him that) from the Padres for Andrew Cashner. Only 22 years old, he’s tearing it up at AAA to the tune of a .372/.422/.638 slash line and is only being held back by the issue of service time (free agency eligibility begins after 6 major league seasons and teams sometimes try to delay the eligibility clock by bringing young players up in June or July) and the fact that Bryan LaHair is playing well at the major league level. He’s a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor, so you know the kid is a fighter, too. I think he’s the most big league-ready of our youngsters and will give the Cubs a big run producer for a decade or so. ETA…June 2012

2. Brett Jackson, OF Jackson is a big, left-handed hitting OFer with superb defensive skills, is faster than rent in the ghetto and actually has the ability to draw a walk, something the Cubs haven’t stressed in the past. He’s prone to the strikeout, but so were plenty of other difference-makers with a similar tool set. I’m hoping he can be Jim Edmonds with more speed and less power. I don’t expect 40 homers from him, but 40 steals per season are in his sights. He’s excelled at every level he’s been at and at 23 is ready to hone his craft in Wrigley. There’s an available OF spot for him, but he’s in the same service time boat as The Riz. This kid is going to get every chance to be the dynamic leadoff hitter we have lusted after like we’ve lusted after a video of Kate Upton doing the Cat Daddy.

God help the rest of baseball if Jackson exceeds that level of awesomeness. ETA….June 2012

3. Javy Baez, 3B The last 1st round pick of the Jim Hendry reign of terror, he’s from the last MLB draft where overslotting and overpaying those players was possible. Drafted 9th overall in 2011, he’s 6′ 1″, 205ish, and still filling out since he’s only 19 years old. Scouts raved about how the ball jumps off his bat to all areas of the field. Defensively, he’s already a plus player and has the ability to play SS as well as 3B. Attitude may be an issue, though. He was recently scolded for admiring a home run and responded, “I can do whatever the fuck I want!” He’d better hit about 35 homers with a .300+ average in Wrigley if he’s going to be a cockbite. Hey, they can’t all be saints. ETA….2015

4. Matt Szczur, OF
Pronounced “Caesar”, Szczur is a super athlete who played both baseball and football at Villanova before choosing baseball after being drafted in the 5th round of the 2010 draft. He probably would have chosen baseball anyway, but the Cubs gave him $100K to sign and another $500K to skip the NFL scouting combine. For $600K, I shudder to think what I’d do. He’s struggling a bit at High-A Daytona, but he was a project with a high ceiling when we drafted him and we can afford to let him learn his craft at his own pace. He’s athletic and was very durable in college while playing two sports. He’s gone from 5th round future to fast-track prospect making a name for himself in the organization. ETA….2014, maybe 2015

5. Trey McNutt, P The top pitching prospect in the system, McNutt, only 22, has two outstanding plus pitches…an overwhelming fastball and a big ol’ power curve that are almost major-league caliber as it is. Refining a 3rd pitch and sharpening his control a bit will be the keys for McNutt (yeah, you love that name) to make it as a starting pitcher in The Show. He is thought so highly of that the Cubs refused to include him in the Matt Garza trade and laughed in Boston’s collective faces when they wanted McNutt (don’t act like you’re not giggling) in compensation for Theo. Standing 6′ 4″, he’s an imposing figure on the mound and may even put a few more pounds on his 205 pound frame. We need more home-grown arms to compete, but McNutt is a good start. ETA…2013

Rocky Horror Live Cast Showing

Ok, off sports for a second. This past Friday night, I took my girls and two of their friends to the Arcada Theatre’s live cast showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you’ve never seen this, it’s a Bucket List thing, especially if you like rude, vulgar, offensive and colorfully dressed people who worship a movie that bombed like it was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. These goofs (said lovingly, of course) dress up in costume and act along with the movie in it’s entirety. But that’s not the fun part!! The fun part is the audience callbacks. During the whole movie, the dialogue in the movie is “answered” by the in-the-know members of the audience. Here’s a decent example of this. Gotta listen kind of close, but you can make out the callbacks.

The enjoyment level for virgins (Oh yeah, first-timers are called “virgins” and are marked with a lipsticked “V” on each cheek and some offensive words or artwork on foreheads or bald heads. Then, the cast tries to offend them pre-show. The guy who tried to offend me had the tables turned on him. Silly cross-dresser!!) depends on how good the audience is. It’s much more fun to hear everything crisp and in-time (My name is Janet. “SLUT!!”) rather than a bunch of people who aren’t into the flick. It’s very audience participatory-dependent for fun, because the movie itself pretty much sucks, which is why it bombed years ago. After the show, the cast is more than happy to pose for pics and shoot the proverbial shit with you. This is me and my boy, Frank. I think it’s a boy. I didn’t have the sack to look under it’s panties…

Bring your kids if you don’t mind taking a chance on scarring them for life. How can you, really, when it’s just a bunch of grown-ups prancing around in drag?