It should be a tremendous summer-long race among the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees to see who winds up with the best record in Major League Baseball. The Mariners are showing that while plucky, they are just not good enough to keep up with a pace looking more and more likely to produce an unprecedented three teams in the same league with 100 or more wins in the same season. Only six times have three teams between the American and National Leagues won 100+. The Dodgers, Indians, and Astros did it last year. The Astros should again cruise to the AL West title while the Yanks and Bosox slug it out trying to avoid facing one game elimination via the Wild Card game.
Before 1995 there were no Wild Cards. 1993 was the last postseason before the Wild Card (the 1994 strike forced cancellation of the playoffs). The Giants finished 103-59 and got nothing for it, finishing one game behind the Braves in the NL West. Before 1969 there were no Divisions meaning you either won the pennant and went to the World Series, or you went home. The 1942 Dodgers finished 104-50, two games behind the Cardinals.
Little big man
On May 14 Jose Altuve was one out away from seeing his batting average dip below .300. He singled in his last at bat that day to keep his average above his personal Mendoza Line (in the 70s there was a crappy hitter named Mario Mendoza whose batting averages over five straight seasons were .180, .185, .198, .218, and .198. So .200 became a reference line for awful hitting). In 33 games played since that hit Altuve is batting .403 with an OPS of 1.078. Last year Altuve won his third American League batting title and first AL MVP award with a batting average of .346. He starts the weekend at .347. Context alert: Altuve is astoundingly good, pretty much on top of his game (still down a little overall from last season), and on a clear Hall of Fame track. His OPS this season is closer to waaaaay over the hill Albert Pujols’s than it is to Mike Trout’s.
Draft stock falling?
The NBA Draft just isn’t as big a deal as it used to be. It’s still hugely important and will produce All-Stars and probably Hall of Famers. It’s just reality that with the top selections dominated by one and done college freshmen the players are much lesser known, are more boys than NBA men, and with few exceptions are ill-equipped to enter the league and be standouts early on.
Judging it from the greatest players in the class, the 1984 NBA Draft has to be considered the best ever. How about four-fifths of a starting lineup comprised of John Stockton, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon. We need a small forward for that quintet so the nod goes to second round pick, the late Jerome Kersey. All of those guys played at least three years of college basketball.
Another mention-worthy draft class, especially since generously Rocket-tinted, the class of 1970. Your starting five : Nate Archibald, Pete Maravich, Rudy Tomjanovich, Dave Cowens, and Bob Lanier. For a sixth man how about Calvin Murphy? Rudy-T is the only one of those six not in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Rudy’s non-election remains an annual disgrace.
Top of the list
Picking first overall for the first time in their franchise history the Phoenix Suns hope they got a franchise center in DeAndre Ayton out of Arizona. His career production probably comes in somewhere between that of Olajuwon and Michael Olowokandi. Back in 1969 the Suns could have had the number 1 pick, but they lost a coin flip for it to the Milwaukee Bucks. At number two the Suns took center Neal Walk, who had a few solid seasons. But the grand prize the Suns lost out on was Lew Alcindor, soon to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Suns still have yet to win an NBA Championship. Kareem won six.
In 1983 the Rockets won the coin flip that got them Ralph Sampson. The second pick was Steve Stipanovich. The next year the Rockets won the flip again and took Olajuwon. Portland made Sam Bowie the second selection. Pick three, Michael Jordan. Trail Blazers fans who were alive back then, are sick about that to this day. Portland has blazed no championship trail since. Jordan won six.
The next year, the NBA ditched the coin flip system for the draft lottery.
1. Lame as Dwight Howard’s career arc has become, if Dikembe Mutombo was deemed Hall of Fame material, then isn’t Howard? 2. The World Cup means more globally than any other sporting event. But soccer simply has too many ties and 1-0 games to ever really breakout as a mainstream sport here. 3. Best “Summer” songs: Bronze-DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince “Summertime” Silver-Bananarama “Cruel Summer” Gold-Don Henley “Boys of Summer”