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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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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