Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Weird Week

Greg Maddux is TigerBlog's favorite baseball player of all time. Well, either Maddux or John Smoltz.

Back when MotherBlog was living in Atlanta, TB became a big fan of the Braves. Actually, this predated when Maddux signed with the team, which was back in 1993.

TB remembers a night in 1989 when he and MotherBlog went to see the Braves play the Dodgers at Fulton County Stadium. He remembers that the Braves lost 7-0 and that nobody was in the building.

When TB checked out the box score, he found out that the game was on June 6, 1989, and that "Martinez" had pitched a complete game shutout for the Dodgers. It wasn't even Pedro. It was Ramon.

Anyway, TB got into the Braves because of MotherBlog, and because TBS showed all the Braves games back then.

Atlanta went 63-97 in 1989 and 65-97 in 1990, finishing sixth in the division each year. The team hadn't had a winning record since 1982, and in 1988 had actually lost 106 games.

And then, in 1991, everything fell into place, as the Braves began a remarkable run that saw them reach the World Series in 1991 and 1992 and then win it in 1995. TB is still bothered by the 1993 NLCS loss to the Phillies and even more by the 1996 World Series, when the Braves lost to the Yankees after being up 2-0 in the series and 6-0 in Game 4. Oh, and that game that Eric Gregg umpired against the Marlins in the NLCS in 1997.

Maddux pitched for the Braves from 1993-2003, winning three Cy Young Awards in the process. In 1997, a year he didn't win the Cy Young Award, he went 19-4 with a 2.20 ERA and 177 strikeouts and 20 walks in 232 innings. Who did win the Cy Young that year? Pedro Martinez, who was 17-8 but with a 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts in 241 innings.

Maddux had all kinds of years like that, with almost no walks and low ERAs. He finished his career 355-227 with a 3.16 ERA and 3,371 strikeouts and 999 walks in 5,008 innings. He did all this without ever coming close 90 mph on a radar gun - but with a ball that could start out six inches off the plate and tail back over at the last second.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. Shockingly, 16 votes chose not to include him on their ballots, including one who refuses to vote for anyone at all who played during the steroid era.

TB can't really blame people who won't vote for the McGwires and Sosas and Bonds. Hey, they clearly cheated, even if their non-steroid careers would have been good enough to get in.

But Maddux? What did he do?

The announcement of the baseball Hall of Fame class of 2014 came yesterday. It includes another Braves pitcher, Tom Glavine, who is also wildly deserving. Frank Thomas was elected as well, and while TB agrees that he's a Hall of Fame player, he's not one of the all-time greatest hitters.

TB has never liked the whole "he's a Hall of Famer but not a first ballot one." In fact, TB would prefer players to be on the ballot just once - either you are or you aren't.

As for the future, will anyone be unanimous? Mariano Rivera (whom TB considers to be the most overrated baseball player ever, but that's more about the nature of his position)? Derek Jeter? Anyone?

Smoltz is on the ballot next year, TB believes. He won't be unanimous, but he should be in on the first try. Aside from his regular season numbers (213 wins, 154 saves, 3,084 strikeouts), he was also 15-4 in the postseason.

The baseball Hall of Fame news followed the BCS championship game and preceded the NFL divisional playoff round in a huge sports week.

As far as Princeton is concerned, it's more of a weird week than a huge week, though there are some huge events.

This is always a weird week for Princeton, in that the holidays are over but first semester exams are coming. It means that while the rest of the college sports world gears up again after a slow time in late December and then has a huge month of January, Princeton has games this week and then is off for two weeks for exams.

The biggest events this weekend are on the road, though the men's hockey team is home against RPI and Union after its trip to Florida and Vancouver.

As for the big events on the road, he squash teams are at Harvard and Dartmouth. The women's match against Harvard, particularly, should decide the Ivy League championship, even this early in the league season. At the very least, the winner will be in major control on the way to at least a share of the title.

Then there is Saturday at the Palestra, where a basketball doubleheader begins with the Princeton-Penn women at 3 and continues with the men at 6. No Ivy men's or women's teams have played a league game yet.

The women's game features the Ivy League team with the best record to this point, and it's Penn, not Princeton. The Quakers are 8-2 right now and actually have won eight straight after opening with losses to St. Francis (N.Y.) and Notre Dame.

One sign that Penn is an improved team is the fact that Alyssa Baron, already a two-time Ivy scoring champion, is averaging a career-low 13.7 per game - and yet her team is 8-2. In other words, she's no longer a one woman show.

Princeton, at 9-5, is playing very well right now. The league season begins with two huge tests, at Penn Saturday and then home with 9-4 Harvard in the next game, though it is 20 days later.

Princeton has won the last four Ivy titles.

As for the men's game, Penn may be 2-10 while Princeton is 11-2, but they're both 0-0 in the Ivy League. It's a great opportunity for a struggling team to wipe the slate clean.

Also, remember that Penn was picked second in the preseason poll while Princeton was picked fourth. Yes, it's been a rough road for the Quakers through November and December, but it won't be easy for Princeton, who can't just show up and win.

And then it'll be off for two weeks, so any momentum that is gained this weekend won't last.

Still, these are huge games for both teams. Especially since both play Harvard in their next league game.

No comments: