4th and a Mile with Paul Muth

Dusty, Bill, Andy and Kobe

Kobe Bryant transcended sports.

It's been a weird week for everyone, I think. Let's just hop into it.

Dusty Baker, eh?

Wednesday afternoon it became official that Dusty Baker would be the Astros next manager.

That was actually the first name I suggested on that darkest of Mondays. He's handled big names and big expectations before, and aside from Joe Espada or Bruce Bochy being coaxed out of retirement, he seemed like the best fit.

Some wanted an authoritarian, no nonsense manager like a Buck Showalter. It just never seemed to make sense in my mind how that kind of personality would jell with the players. This Astros team is still very very good, and bringing in anything other than a player's coach would poison the water.

It will be interesting to see how willing a 70 year old Baker is to adopt that Astros noted affinity towards analytics, but I don't think he would've been offered the job otherwise.

Pitchers and catchers report in 13 days, FYI.

Texans balk at fans, make Bill O'Brien supreme ruler

Seriously. Well, they promoted him to general manager at least. It's so hard to watch the McNairs double down on this guy. Whatever. Go Roughnecks.

Super bowl stuff

I'm actually legitimately excited for this Super Bowl. The teams are both stacked and they both steamrolled their way in. The Chiefs have an unreal offense, while the 49ers have a staggering defense. You've got the young upstart coach looking to legitimize his place in the ring against one of the game's legends seeking the one accolade that has eluded him thus far. Patrick Mahomes is goofy, Jimmy Garappolo is gorgeous. There are reasons to root for both sides if you don't necessarily care one way or the other about either team, and that just adds to it.

Personally, I'm rooting for Andy Reid. If Andy Reid were my neighbor, he seems like the type of guy that would bring mis-delivered mail over, put a fallen bicycle back up on its kickstand, and also water your yard on the way out. Here's hoping Mahomes takes some Dramamine before the big game and helps the big guy cement his place in Canton. If you have something bad to say about Andy Reid, take it somewhere else. This is a pro-Andy column.

And yeah, Kobe

I really wanted to write something poignant about the whole Kobe Bryant thing. I tried about three different angles, but none of it rang true. It sounded hollow. So I'm just going to shoot from the hip and see what falls.

I wasn't always a fan of Kobe. Hell, I'd say I've spent most of my life booing him to be honest. People change though, especially once the sport part is over.

I grew up watching Kobe play. I watched him grow old. I watched him fail. I watched him succeed. I watched him succeed a lot. Kobe Bryant, as far as I've known my entire life, has always been intertwined within the fabric of the NBA.

I've never known basketball that doesn't include Kobe Bryant.

It's just the suddenness I suppose. The only other time I've felt this sort of grief toward celebrity was the day that Robin Williams died. It was sudden, too. It wasn't supposed to happen this way.

It's not grief over a ball player either. Kobe Bryant, through all of his faults, didn't just become a legend. He became a philosophy. He was a brutal pursuit, personified. You don't teach legends. You teach philosophies.

In college we had a copy of NBA 2K9. I once played a guy with the Lakers and told him I could beat him scoring only with Kobe, and he could pick whatever team he wanted. He picked the Jordan All-Star team and scored 100 points.

I beat him by 20. Kobe beat him by 20.

I'll end with this fun stat. Kobe Bryant played the Rockets 61 times in his career. Out of 61 contests, do you know how many times the Mamba was held to single digits scoring?

FOUR.

I'm still processing this whole thing. Everyone take care.

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NASCAR is coming to Texas! Photo via: Wiki Commons

It’s an All-Star weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway. As most fans know, this race is extremely different from what we see on a usual Sunday. This race is an invitational event featuring the winners from the 2021 and 2022 seasons with a few qualifiers including past champions and past All-Star winners over the last ten seasons. As it does every year, the format for this race has changed. It will be divided into four stages, and the winner of each of the first three stages will take up the first three spots on the grid (as long as they finish 15th or higher). The final stage will be fifty laps and if there is no caution between laps 15-25, then the yellow will be thrown to stack everything up. Probably the most important and intriguing change to the format won’t take place on race day, but during qualifying. The field will be given one lap and the fastest eight will advance to the final round, where they will each face-off head-to-head in a bracket. Each paring will have a mandatory pit-stop before exiting, and the first car back to the finish line moves on. This is a unique way of deciding who starts where, I would not be surprised in the slightest if it comes back somewhere down the line in the future

Last week, Kurt Busch went on to score his first victory of the year. It didn’t come easy for the 2004 champion, he had to fend off Kyle Larson and his brother Kyle Busch. The race was marred by numerous tire failures, as it seemed drivers could only go 25-35 laps before running into an issue. Luckily for Kurt, the cautions fell at the right time and he was able to manage his tires as he dominated the race by leading a race-high 116 laps. This was the first win for the #45 car at 23XII racing, as now both Busch and his teammate Bubba Wallace both have victories. While it’s been a frustrating season for this team, this win couldn’t have come at a better time.

While Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan celebrated their team win, Stewart-Haas racing was on the opposite end of the spectrum. All four of their cars finished outside the top ten, including their franchise driver Kevin Harvick. It’s worth noting that despite the disastrous day that he had, Harvick could bounce back with a respectable 15th-place finish. This team has a lot of questions regarding the future of their driver lineup. We know that next season Aric Almirola will retire, but after that who will fill the seat? Will it be their reserve driver Ryan Preece? Could it even be Kyle Busch? With these types of disappointing results from Harvick, many have wondered if he might decide to retire at the end of the 2022 season. This will be a team to follow in the coming months.

As we reach the dog days of summer, the infamous silly season is right around the corner. This is when the rumors start to become louder and louder about who will go next season and what rides will be available. As I mentioned earlier, Kyle Busch is easily the biggest question on the grid, with Mars leaving at season's end, can Joe Gibbs racing find him a sponsor to keep him in the #18 Toyota? There were reports on Thursday that the team was in negotiations with a “major tech company” to sponsor the car for one season. It’s clear that re-signing the two-time champion is the number one priority for Joe Gibbs and Toyota. TRD Executive David Wilson stated that losing him would be, “Unacceptable.” It will be interesting to see this story develop.

With that, the driver I have winning the All-Star Race this weekend is none other than Kyle Busch. Overall, it’s hard to find active drivers with better stats here at this track than him as he’s won here four times, the most among the field. He’s also led over 1,069 laps here, almost more than double the amount of the next closest driver (Martin Truex Jr with 674). When Jimmie Johnson stepped away from the sport in 2020, it was clear that the torch was handed over to Kyle as the best driver at this racetrack. He will be the driver to beat for the million dollars when the checkered flag falls.

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