Friday, September 29, 2006

Active Hall of Famers, Part I

I haven't been writing that much about sports in this space. In fact, I haven't been writing that much in this space, period. So, I decided to start a little project. I'm going to go through the Major Leagues and take a look at just how many players that are currently active will one day be in the Hall of Fame. I'm going to ignore the young guys about whom we just don't know enough yet (your Ryan Howards, your Justin Morneaus) and focus on two categories:

1. The Plane Crash Guys

Sorry; I know that's a little morbid and insensitive, but, it's a short way of saying that these are the guys who would be Hall of Famers if they went down tomorrow and never played another game. These are guys who don't need another couple of good years to put them over the hump; they'll be Hall of Famers if they never play another game after the season ends on Sunday.

And this is not to say that they're no-doubters; they're just guys who I imagine would make it into the Hall of Fame based on their records to date, not guys (to give you a spoiler of an upcoming installment) like Joe Mauer who look like certain Hall of Famers if they continue their current greatness but if they retired tomorrow you couldn't put them in because they haven't done enough.

2. Probables

Guys who I'm predicting will wind up in the Hall of Fame, but who need to put up a few more numbers first.

I'll be going division-by-division, starting with the American League East. I'm not saying I'll be right on every single one, but, at least 90%. Besides, no one's going to check in 20 years to prove me wrong.

Here goes:

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

none

BOSTON RED SOX

Plane Crash Guys

Curt Schilling - Never won a Cy Young, but his post-season heroics for Arizona and Boston should get him in. His win total is low for a guy I normally would think of as a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but as of this writing he's only two shy of Don Drysdale, and with another really good year could catch the likes of Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Catfish Hunter. Sometimes it's not just a guy's stats, it's his "legend."

Plus, and this seems as good a time as any to bring this up, Schilling passes my personal "the great" test. As is, when you say "the great (player's name)," does it sound weird? Or does it sound right? Generally speaking, if it sounds weird then the guy's not a Hall of Famer, and if it sounds good, then he is. Although that means that there are more guys in the Hall who shouldn't be ("the great Tony Perez"?) than there are guys on the outside looking in (but there are a few of those, like the great Goose Gossage and the great Bert Blyleven) (that's another thing you should know: I can't evaluate Minnesota Twins rationally. Especially ones who helped them win a World Series. Tim Laudner is a Hall of Famer in my book).

Manny Ramirez - 10 All-Star selections and counting, 438 homers and counting, and of all the guys with 1500+ RBI, only Harold Baines and Fred McGriff are likely non-Hall of Famers (with a big giant "Who the Hell Knows?" surrounding Rafael Palmeiro). Manny's a Hall of Famer right now, and he's only 34. He could end up in the Hall's VIP room with Ruth, Williams, Foxx et al.

(I'm aware that I'm leaving off David Ortiz. You have to dominate longer than he did, and he's going to be 31 next season. Now that they test for steroids, I don't think you can keep getting better into your late-30s)

NEW YORK YANKEES

Get comfortable; we're going to be here a while.

Plane Crash Guys

Randy Johnson - Top three in strikeouts all time (of course, Bert Blyleven is #5 and he's not a Hall of Famer, but, neither is he Randy Johnson) will win almost 300 games, won five Cy Youngs. No need to waste time analyzing his credentials any further.

Mariano Rivera - Will undoubtedly retire in the top five all-time on the career saves list (maybe the top one or two), but then again, two of those top five (John Franco and Lee Smith) won't be Hall of Famers. So why is Rivera? He played on all those Yankees World Series teams, for one (although John Wetteland was the closer when they won in 1996). But mostly, it's because he's considered by many to be the most fearsome closer of all time. Some people just smell like first-ballot Hall of Famers.

Derek Jeter - Reason: he's Derek Jeter. If he put up these numbers in Kansas City he might not be Derek Jeter, but, that's silly to say, because we all know he wouldn't be putting up those numbers in Kansas City for long. No matter where he'd started, he'd be a Yankee soon enough anyway.

Plus, no one ever talks about this, but, guys who started playing in the mid-90s and played on good teams their entire careers could end up, by the time they retire, playing an entire extra season's worth of playoff games. Jeter has played in 115, and that's not counting this year. That's an entire season's worth of stats that aren't counted in his career totals, an another season's worth of wear and tear on his body (more, probably, since I have to imagine a playoff game takes more out of you than a mid-July getaway day game against the Devil Rays). I'll go ahead and give Jeter a little extra credit for that.

Alex Rodriguez - For all of the falderal that has surrounded Rodriguez this year, let's not forget that, statistically, he's one of the best offensive baseball players of all time, he's 37 home runs shy of 500 (he might hit 800) and, though you wouldn't know it to watch him, he did win two Gold Gloves.

Probables

Gary Sheffield - For me, the question wasn't whether Gary Sheffield would make the Hall of Fame, it was whether he's a Plane Crash Guy or a Probable. He's done enough in my book, but, there are guys like Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman, Albert Belle and Jim Rice who also did enough, yet aren't Hall of Famers because nobody likes them (then there are guys like Blyleven and Andre Dawson, who aren't Hall of Famers for reasons that defy explanation). I think Sheffield is kind of thought of as a jerk, but, a couple more good seasons and his career stats will be too good to ignore, even if he did get a jump on things by starting when he was 19.

Mike Mussina - Maybe the biggest question mark on the list. He's almost 40, no one's ever bought a ticket to see Mike Mussina, but, after the obvious Hall of Famers (Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Glavine), Mussina's got more wins than any active pitcher. Is anyone going to win 250 again? Will 250 be the new 300 (i.e., an automatic ticket to Cooperstown)? Mussina will probably get 250, but, will he be the Harold Baines of pitchers? I predict he'll end up as a Hall of Famer, but I don't have to feel good about that prediction.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

none

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

none

Coming up next: the AL Central.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The "Studio 60" Drinking Game

[not the usual amount of hyper-linkage on this one, 'cause I just don't feel like it]

First of all: the Minnesota Twins are going to the playoffs!

Hopefully there won't be too many close games, because I just can't handle them. When they played the Yankees in the ALDS in 2004, I was pretty much forced to go a beer an inning. It looks like they'll be playing the Yankees in 2006 as well, so I'll have to stock up.

Now. To business. For all intents and purposes, the illustrious title of The Best Show on TV no longer belongs to "Big Brother." I'm not ready to award the title to anyone else just yet though, because "Veronica Mars" hasn't started yet, I've only seen one episode of "Heroes" (which I quite liked; having said that, the "scenes from next week" pretty much blew the episode itself away), "Boston Legal" and "The Office" are still around and after a pilot I merely liked and a second episode I loved, I'm waiting to see just how good "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" ends up being.

In the meantime, though, we can amuse ourselves with the "Studio 60" drinking game I invented. It's based on the premise that if you've been exposed to a lot of Aaron Sorkin's work, you can see certain themes reappear from time to time. And by "certain themes," I mean "chunks of dialogue or big plot points," and by "reappear" I mean "be lifted verbatim and plugged into a different show/movie/play." This isn't necessarily even a criticism; I've enjoyed pretty much everything Sorkin's ever done. But it happens a lot.

Quick detour: I've enjoyed -- and I suspect I will continue to enjoy -- Sorkin's work immensely. Still, ever since that story where he was caught with mushrooms in his luggage at the Burbank airport, I can't look at him the same way. Not because he was doing drugs; I've had brushes enough with addiction and substance abuse to where I have a degree of sympathy for people who deal with that. And not because he was trying to carry illicit substances in his luggage through an airport; setting aside the idea of whether most drugs should be legal, I could care less if an adult wants to bring some 'shrooms with him to Vegas for the weekend. No, I could never look at Sorkin the same way because, apparently, while the whole incident was taking place, he fainted.

He fainted. He God-damned fainted!

Since then, I've never been able to think of "Aaron Sorkin" without thinking: "dandy." He's a colossal dandy! Well, maybe he isn't, but, I can't think of him without "dandy" popping into my head. His name and the word "dandy" are inextricably linked in my mind. I've actually got a whole stable of people like that, people who I can't really think of without thinking of a very specific word or phrase. "Clueless hunk Paul Rudd." "Famed knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm." "Handsome actor George Peppard" (that's thanks to Letterman). Harry Truman always goes with "feisty ex-haberdasher," and I can't think of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. without thinking in my head (with a comical Southern accent) the phrase, "that was the only time I ever saw my daddy cry."

Plus, no one ever seems to bring this up and I can't figure out why, and, I'm not into dudes or anything (I mean, it's fine if you are, but, I'm not), but, Aaron Sorkin is gorgeous. Just sayin'.

Anyway. End of detour. So, like I said, the "Studio 60" drinking game is based on Aaron Sorkin's self-plagiarism. It's been too long since I saw The American President, and it didn't particularly resonate with me, but, between "SportsNight," "The West Wing," A Few Good Men and even his 1990 one-act play "Hidden in This Picture" (which anyone within the sound of my voice should do absolutely anything -- and I mean anything -- to get a hold of), there's a lot to work with. Basically, the way the "Studio 60" drinking game works is that whenever we get some Sorkin self-plagiarism, we drink.

So, when you're watching "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip":

Whenever anyone expresses an appreciation for Gilbert & Sullivan, take a drink.

Whenever anyone says, "I can tell you're opening up to me right now, and I think that's great..." take a drink.

Whenever anyone disparages Christianity, take a drink.

Whenever a male character gets obsessed with the minutiae of a quirky task because he just discovered that his dad has been having an affair for the last 20 years, take a drink.

Whenever you see Clark Gregg, chug the rest of your drink (this rule also applies to the David Mamet Drinking Game).

Whenever a character whose last name begins with "Mc" appears on screen, take a sip of your drink (we don't want anybody to get alcohol poisoning).

Whenever a parent tells his child that all s/he has to to do make that parent proud is "come home at the end of the day," take a drink.

Whenever a senior citizen uses the word "feckless," drink everything in the room.

Have fun!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Off To an Encouraging Start

It's just one game, and it's a long season, and the Redskins might not be that good.

Still.

If my quick calculations are correct (and even if they're aren't, they're not off by much), the Vikings were 5-20 outdoors (including playoffs) under coach Mike Tice (2-18 if you remove those five throw-out-the-records NFC North rivalry games against Green Bay). Under Brad Childress, they're 1-0.

Brad Johnson looked solid last night, and I guarantee you "solid" is a word that about 25 NFL teams wish to God they could use to describe their starting quarterback. Chester Taylor had a rather pedestrian 88 yards on 31 carries, but 40 of those yards came in the 4th quarter, most of them on the Vikings' workmanlike, clock-grinding drive that resulted in the eventual winning field goal. Troy Williamson is going to be really good if he can learn to hold onto the ball, and maybe, just maybe, rookie quarterback Tavaris Jackson will be ready to go by the time Johnson decides to call it a career.

Even the awful new uniforms, while still looking like deep-fried ass, weren't quite as distracting as I thought they'd be.

I don't want to get too excited about a win over a potentially shaky Washington team, but, the Vikings pleasantly surprised a lot of fans last night, and it's been a while since they did that. Nonetheless, kudos to the Vikings and their new head coach, Vice Principal Brad Childress.

Like I said, it's just one game, and it's a long season, and the Redskins might not be that good.

Still.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

NFL Picks 2006

I figured I’d get my 2006 NFL picks up before the season begins in earnest in about two hours. These picks are 100% guaranteed expertise-free. I’m just some guy.

Playoff teams in bold

AFC EAST
New England Patriots, 11-5
Miami Dolphins, 9-7
Buffalo Bills, 7-9
New York Jets, 6-10

AFC NORTH
Cincinnati Bengals, 12-4
Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-5
Baltimore Ravens, 9-7
Cleveland Browns, 7-9

AFC SOUTH
Indianapolis Colts, 12-4
Jacksonville Jaguars, 7-9
Tennessee Titans, 7-9
Houston Texans, 4-12

AFC WEST
Denver Broncos, 11-5
San Diego Chargers, 10-6
Kansas City Chiefs, 7-9
Oakland Raiders, 4-12

NFC EAST
Dallas Cowboys, 10-6
Washington Redskins, 9-7
New York Giants, 9-7
Philadelphia Eagles, 8-8

NFC NORTH
Minnesota Vikings, 10-6
Chicago Bears, 9-7
Green Bay Packers, 5-11
Detroit Lions, 4-12

NFC SOUTH
Carolina Panthers, 11-5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 7-9
Atlanta Falcons, 6-10
New Orleans Saints, 6-10

NFC WEST
Seattle Seahawks, 11-5
St. Louis Rams, 9-7
Arizona Cardinals, 5-11
San Francisco 49ers, 3-13

PLAYOFFS

Wild Card

Steelers over Broncos, Patriots over Chargers
Rams over Vikings, Cowboys over Bears

Divisional Playoffs

Colts over Steelers, Patriots over Bengals
Panthers over Rams, Seahawks over Cowboys

AFC Championship Game

Patriots over Colts

NFC Championship Game

Panthers over Seahawks

SUPER BOWL XLI

Patriots over Panthers

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Best Show On TV, Part 3

The Best Show On TV

"The Office" (NBC) -- 2/9/2006 - 4/2/2006
"Huff" (Showtime) -- 4/2/2006 - 8/26/2006
"Big Brother" (CBS) -- 8/26/2006 - present

I only just found out, during Blythe Danner's Emmy speech, that Showtime had cancelled the current reigning Best Show on TV, "Huff". How sad. But, much like Basista did when he injured himself in a match against Mark Henry and was unable to compete, "Huff" must now surrender its title as The Best Show On TV. You can't be The Best Show On TV if you're not, you know, on TV.

Luckily, a new Best Show On TV has emerged this summer. That show is "Big Brother", and no one is more surprised than I am to see it on this list. But the new season hasn't started yet, the pickings are relatively slim, and, although I only just started watching less than a month ago, "Big Brother" is the clear choice.

It should be noted that I'm a reality TV fan to begin with; your "Real World/Road Rules Challenge," your "Survivor," your "Amazing Race"... all can't miss for me. But the last few weeks of "Big Brother" (the only episodes of the show I've ever seen) have taken things to the next level. For those who don't know, they're doing an "All-Stars" version, and, from what I can see, it's working as well as "Survivor: All-Stars" didn't.

My wife decided to put the "All-Stars" edition on the TiVo, because there's not much on this summer and because she's spending some long hours home alone with the baby (as am I, when she's at work). From the beginning she kept telling me that there was an alliance of all the cast members from Season 6, made up of only four people, that the other ten contestants seemed to be afraid of. Also, there was an alliance of only two guys (who nicknamed themselves "Chill Town"), who made no secret of their alliance, to the point of wearing actual outfits with "Chill Town" on them. And, did the eight contestants who belonged to neither Season 6 nor Chill Town band together and kick the other six off like you'd have to assume they would? No, they didn't, and, now it's down to just Chill Town and two other women.

What makes the show so good? I couldn't tell you. Maybe it's just that it's late August and there's nothing else on, but, I suspect it also has something to do with two of the remaining contestants, Will and Janelle, each of whom -- even though I've only been watching for a month -- are surefire first-ballot Reality TV Hall of Famers (in fact, that first Reality TV Hall of Fame Class might be able to go toe-to-toe with the Baseball Hall of Fame's first inductees).

First of all, there's Will, who, I'm told, won the second edition of "Big Brother" and has now reached the final four of the All-Stars edition. Remarkable, especially since, according to my wife, he's both announced that he hates everybody in the Big Brother house, went around telling people to vote him off, and has made no secret of the fact that his Chill Town alliance aims to get to the final two. And he's still around. Personally, I think Will would eat Richard Hatch for breakfast.

Then there's Janelle, who wins almost every competition they have despite not seeming particularly brilliant and who, if Mean Girls was the NFL, would be like a combination of John Elway and Lawrence Taylor wrapped into one smoking hot bleached-blond package.

Plus, she's from Minnesota.

Now, I don't anticipate that "Big Brother"'s title reign will be a long one. No; with "Heroes" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" debuting, and with "Boston Legal," "The Office," "Veronica Mars" and others coming back shortly, I think what we've got here is a transitional champion. Stay tuned.

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